Objective: In the UK, asthma deaths are at their highest level this century. Increased recognition of at-risk patients is needed. This study phenotyped frequent asthma exacerbators and used machine learning to predict frequent exacerbators.
Methods: Patients admitted to a district general hospital with an asthma exacerbation between 1st March 2018 and 1st March 2020 were included. Patients were organized into two groups: "Infrequent Exacerbators" (1 admission in the previous 12 months) and "Frequent Exacerbators" (≥2 admissions in the previous 12 months). Patient data were retrospectively collected from hospital and primary care records. Machine learning models were used to predict frequent exacerbators.
Results: 200 patients admitted for asthma exacerbations were randomly selected (73% female; mean age 47.8 years). Peripheral eosinophilia was uncommon in either group (21% vs 19%). More frequent exacerbators were being treated with high-dose ICS than infrequent exacerbators (46.5% vs 23.2%; P < 0.001), and frequent exacerbators used more SABA inhalers (10.9 vs 7.40; P = 0.01) in the year preceding the current admission. BMI was raised in both groups (34.2 vs 30.9). Logistic regression was the most accurate machine learning model for predicting frequent exacerbators (AUC = 0.80).
Conclusions: Patients admitted for asthma are predominately female, obese and non-eosinophilic. Patients who require multiple admissions per year have poorer asthma control at baseline. Machine learning algorithms can predict frequent exacerbators using clinical data available in primary care. Instead of simply increasing the dose of corticosteroids, multidisciplinary management targeting Th2-low inflammation should be considered for these patients.
Keywords: Phenotypes; Th2-low; corticosteroids; machine learning; prevention.