Concurrent external validation of bloodstream infection probability models

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2023 Jan;29(1):61-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2022.07.011. Epub 2022 Jul 21.


Objective: Accurately estimating the likelihood of bloodstream infection (BSI) can help clinicians make diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. Many multivariate models predicting BSI probability have been published. This study measured the performance of BSI probability models within the same patient sample.

Methods: We retrieved validated BSI probability models included in a recently published systematic review that returned a patient-level BSI probability for adults. Model applicability, discrimination, and accuracy was measured in a simple random sample of 4485 admitted adults having blood cultures ordered in the emergency department or the initial 48 hours of hospitalization.

Results: Ten models were included (publication years 1991-2015). Common methodological threats to model performance included overfitting and continuous variable categorization. Restrictive inclusion criteria caused seven models to apply to <15% of validation patients. Model discrimination was less than originally reported in derivation groups (median c-statistic 60%, range 48-69). The observed BSI risk frequently deviated from expected (median integrated calibration index 4.0%, range 0.8-12.4). Notable disagreement in expected BSI probabilities was seen between models (median (25th-75th percentile) relative difference between expected risks 68.0% (28.6-113.6%)).

Discussion: In a large randomly selected external validation population, many published BSI probability models had restricted applicability, limited discrimination and calibration, and extensive inter-model disagreement. Direct comparison of model performance is hampered by dissimilarities between model-specific validation groups.

Keywords: Bactaeremia; Bloodstream infection; External validation; Predictive models; Systematic review.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteremia* / diagnosis
  • Bacteremia* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Probability
  • Sepsis* / diagnosis
  • Sepsis* / epidemiology