Applied Machine Learning for Spine Surgeons: Predicting Outcome for Patients Undergoing Treatment for Lumbar Disc Herniation Using PRO Data

Casper Friis Pedersen*, Mikkel Østerheden Andersen, Leah Yacat Carreon, Søren Eiskjær

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

18 Downloads (Pure)


Study Design: Retrospective/prospective study. Objective: Models based on preoperative factors can predict patients’ outcome at 1-year follow-up. This study measures the performance of several machine learning (ML) models and compares the results with conventional methods. Methods: Inclusion criteria were patients who had lumbar disc herniation (LDH) surgery, identified in the Danish national registry for spine surgery. Initial training of models included 16 independent variables, including demographics and presurgical patient-reported measures. Patients were grouped by reaching minimal clinically important difference or not for EuroQol, Oswestry Disability Index, Visual Analog Scale (VAS) Leg, and VAS Back and by their ability to return to work at 1 year follow-up. Data were randomly split into training, validation, and test sets by 50%/35%/15%. Deep learning, decision trees, random forest, boosted trees, and support vector machines model were trained, and for comparison, multivariate adaptive regression splines (MARS) and logistic regression models were used. Model fit was evaluated by inspecting area under the curve curves and performance during validation. Results: Seven models were arrived at. Classification errors were within ±1% to 4% SD across validation folds. ML did not yield superior performance compared with conventional models. MARS and deep learning performed consistently well. Discrepancy was greatest among VAS Leg models. Conclusions: Five predictive ML and 2 conventional models were developed, predicting improvement for LDH patients at the 1-year follow-up. We demonstrate that it is possible to build an ensemble of models with little effort as a starting point for further model optimization and selection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)866-876
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • artificial intelligence
  • deep learning
  • lumbar disc herniation
  • machine learning
  • neural network
  • patient-reported outcomes
  • predictive
  • PRO


Dive into the research topics of 'Applied Machine Learning for Spine Surgeons: Predicting Outcome for Patients Undergoing Treatment for Lumbar Disc Herniation Using PRO Data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this