Using Machine Learning to Make Predictions in Patients Who Fall

Andrew J. Young, Allison Hare, Madhu Subramanian, Jessica L. Weaver, Elinore Kaufman, Carrie Sims

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: As the population ages, the incidence of traumatic falls has been increasing. We hypothesize that a machine learning algorithm can more accurately predict mortality after a fall compared with a standard logistic regression (LR) model based on immediately available admission data. Secondary objectives were to predict who would be discharged home and determine which variables had the largest effect on prediction. Methods: All patients who were admitted for fall between 2012 and 2017 at our level 1 trauma center were reviewed. Fourteen variables describing patient demographics, injury characteristics, and physiology were collected at the time of admission and were used for prediction modeling. Algorithms assessed included LR, decision tree classifier (DTC), and random forest classifier (RFC). Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) values were calculated for each algorithm for mortality and discharge to home. Results: About 4725 patients met inclusion criteria. The mean age was 61 ± 20.5 y, Injury Severity Score 8 ± 7, length of stay 5.8 ± 7.6 d, intensive care unit length of stay 1.8± 5.2 d, and ventilator days 0.7 ± 4.2 d. The mortality rate was 3% and three times greater for elderly (aged 65 y and older) patients (5.0% versus 1.6%, P < 0.001). The AUC for predicting mortality for LR, DTC, and RFC was 0.78, 0.64, and 0.86, respectively. The AUC for predicting discharge to home for LR, DTC, and RFC was 0.72, 0.61, and 0.74, respectively. The top five variables that contribute to the prediction of mortality in descending order of importance are the Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) motor, GCS verbal, respiratory rate, GCS eye, and temperature. Conclusions: RFC can accurately predict mortality and discharge home after a fall. This predictive model can be implemented at the time of patient arrival and may help identify candidates for targeted intervention as well as improve prognostication and resource utilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Geriatric fall
  • Machine learning
  • Traumatic fall

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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