Characteristics Associated With Decreased or Increased Mortality Risk From Glycemic Therapy Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes and High Cardiovascular Risk: Machine Learning Analysis of the ACCORD Trial

Diabetes Care. 2018 Mar;41(3):604-612. doi: 10.2337/dc17-2252. Epub 2017 Dec 26.


Objective: Identifying patients who may experience decreased or increased mortality risk from intensive glycemic therapy for type 2 diabetes remains an important clinical challenge. We sought to identify characteristics of patients at high cardiovascular risk with decreased or increased mortality risk from glycemic therapy for type 2 diabetes using new methods to identify complex combinations of treatment effect modifiers.

Research design and methods: The machine learning method of gradient forest analysis was applied to understand the variation in all-cause mortality within the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) trial (N = 10,251), whose participants were 40-79 years old with type 2 diabetes, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) ≥7.5% (58 mmol/mol), cardiovascular disease (CVD) or multiple CVD risk factors, and randomized to target HbA1c <6.0% (42 mmol/mol; intensive) or 7.0-7.9% (53-63 mmol/mol; standard). Covariates included demographics, BMI, hemoglobin glycosylation index (HGI; observed minus expected HbA1c derived from prerandomization fasting plasma glucose), other biomarkers, history, and medications.

Results: The analysis identified four groups defined by age, BMI, and HGI with varied risk for mortality under intensive glycemic therapy. The lowest risk group (HGI <0.44, BMI <30 kg/m2, age <61 years) had an absolute mortality risk decrease of 2.3% attributable to intensive therapy (95% CI 0.2 to 4.5, P = 0.038; number needed to treat: 43), whereas the highest risk group (HGI ≥0.44) had an absolute mortality risk increase of 3.7% attributable to intensive therapy (95% CI 1.5 to 6.0; P < 0.001; number needed to harm: 27).

Conclusions: Age, BMI, and HGI may help individualize prediction of the benefit and harm from intensive glycemic therapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sample Size
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A