Development and External Validation of a Machine Learning Model for Prediction of Potential Transfer to the PICU

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2022 Jul 1;23(7):514-523. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000002965. Epub 2022 Apr 21.


Objectives: Unrecognized clinical deterioration during illness requiring hospitalization is associated with high risk of mortality and long-term morbidity among children. Our objective was to develop and externally validate machine learning algorithms using electronic health records for identifying ICU transfer within 12 hours indicative of a child's condition.

Design: Observational cohort study.

Setting: Two urban, tertiary-care, academic hospitals (sites 1 and 2).

Patients: Pediatric inpatients (age <18 yr).

Interventions: None.

Measurement and main results: Our primary outcome was direct ward to ICU transfer. Using age, vital signs, and laboratory results, we derived logistic regression with regularization, restricted cubic spline regression, random forest, and gradient boosted machine learning models. Among 50,830 admissions at site 1 and 88,970 admissions at site 2, 1,993 (3.92%) and 2,317 (2.60%) experienced the primary outcome, respectively. Site 1 data were split longitudinally into derivation (2009-2017) and validation (2018-2019), whereas site 2 constituted the external test cohort. Across both sites, the gradient boosted machine was the most accurate model and outperformed a modified version of the Bedside Pediatric Early Warning Score that only used physiologic variables in terms of discrimination ( C -statistic site 1: 0.84 vs 0.71, p < 0.001; site 2: 0.80 vs 0.74, p < 0.001), sensitivity, specificity, and number needed to alert.

Conclusions: We developed and externally validated a novel machine learning model that identifies ICU transfers in hospitalized children more accurately than current tools. Our model enables early detection of children at risk for deterioration, thereby creating opportunities for intervention and improvement in outcomes.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Machine Learning*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vital Signs