Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) remains a major cause of neurological disability. Early intervention with therapeutic hypothermia improves outcome, but prediction of HIE is difficult and no single clinical marker is reliable. Machine learning algorithms may allow identification of patterns in clinical data to improve prognostic power. Here we examine the use of a Random Forest machine learning algorithm and five-fold cross-validation to predict the occurrence of HIE in a prospective cohort of infants with perinatal asphyxia. Infants with perinatal asphyxia were recruited at birth and neonatal course was followed for the development of HIE. Clinical variables were recorded for each infant including maternal demographics, delivery details and infant’s condition at birth. We found that the strongest predictors of HIE were the infant’s condition at birth (as expressed by Apgar score), need for resuscitation, and the first postnatal measures of pH, lactate, and base deficit. Random Forest models combining features including Apgar score, most intensive resuscitation, maternal age and infant birth weight both with and without biochemical markers of pH, lactate, and base deficit resulted in a sensitivity of 56-100% and a specificity of 78-99%. This study presents a dynamic method of rapid classification that has the potential to be easily adapted and implemented in a clinical setting, with and without the availability of blood gas analysis. Our results demonstrate that applying machine learning algorithms to readily available clinical data may support clinicians in the early and accurate identification of infants who will develop HIE. We anticipate our models to be a starting point for the development of a more sophisticated clinical decision support system to help identify which infants will benefit from early therapeutic hypothermia.
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