Machine Learning Algorithms Provide Greater Prediction of Response to SCS Than Lead Screening Trial: A Predictive AI-Based Multicenter Study

J Clin Med. 2021 Oct 18;10(20):4764. doi: 10.3390/jcm10204764.


Persistent pain after spinal surgery can be successfully addressed by spinal cord stimulation (SCS). International guidelines strongly recommend that a lead trial be performed before any permanent implantation. Recent clinical data highlight some major limitations of this approach. First, it appears that patient outco mes, with or without lead trial, are similar. In contrast, during trialing, infection rate drops drastically within time and can compromise the therapy. Using composite pain assessment experience and previous research, we hypothesized that machine learning models could be robust screening tools and reliable predictors of long-term SCS efficacy. We developed several algorithms including logistic regression, regularized logistic regression (RLR), naive Bayes classifier, artificial neural networks, random forest and gradient-boosted trees to test this hypothesis and to perform internal and external validations, the objective being to confront model predictions with lead trial results using a 1-year composite outcome from 103 patients. While almost all models have demonstrated superiority on lead trialing, the RLR model appears to represent the best compromise between complexity and interpretability in the prediction of SCS efficacy. These results underscore the need to use AI-based predictive medicine, as a synergistic mathematical approach, aimed at helping implanters to optimize their clinical choices on daily practice.

Keywords: infection; lead trial; machine learning; patient outcome; predictive modeling; screening trial; spinal cord stimulation; supervised learning.