Surgical site infection (SSI) following a neurosurgical operation is a complication that impacts morbidity, mortality, and economics. Currently, machine learning (ML) algorithms are used for outcome prediction in various neurosurgical aspects. The implementation of ML algorithms to learn from medical data may help in obtaining prognostic information on diseases, especially SSIs. The purpose of this study was to compare the performance of various ML models for predicting surgical infection after neurosurgical operations.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted on patients who had undergone neurosurgical operations at tertiary care hospitals between 2010 and 2017. Supervised ML algorithms, which included decision tree, naive Bayes with Laplace correction, k-nearest neighbors, and artificial neural networks, were trained and tested as binary classifiers (infection or no infection). To evaluate the ML models from the testing data set, their sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV), as well as their accuracy, receiver operating characteristic curve, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) were analyzed.
Data were available for 1471 patients in the study period. The SSI rate was 4.6%, and the type of SSI was superficial, deep, and organ/space in 1.2%, 0.8%, and 2.6% of cases, respectively. Using the backward stepwise method, the authors determined that the significant predictors of SSI in the multivariable Cox regression analysis were postoperative CSF leakage/subgaleal collection (HR 4.24, p < 0.001) and postoperative fever (HR 1.67, p = 0.04). Compared with other ML algorithms, the naive Bayes had the highest performance with sensitivity at 63%, specificity at 87%, PPV at 29%, NPV at 96%, and AUC at 76%.
The naive Bayes algorithm is highlighted as an accurate ML method for predicting SSI after neurosurgical operations because of its reasonable accuracy. Thus, it can be used to effectively predict SSI in individual neurosurgical patients. Therefore, close monitoring and allocation of treatment strategies can be informed by ML predictions in general practice.