Using machine-learned bayesian belief networks to predict perioperative risk of clostridium difficile infection following colon surgery

Scott Steele, Anton Bilchik, John Eberhardt, Philip Kalina, Aviram Nissan, Eric Johnson, Itzhak Avital, Alexander Stojadinovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Clostridium difficile (C-Diff) infection following colorectal resection is an increasing source of morbidity and mortality. Objective: We sought to determine if machine-learned Bayesian belief networks (ml-BBNs) could preoperatively provide clinicians with postoperative estimates of C-Diff risk. Methods: We performed a retrospective modeling of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) national registry dataset with independent set validation. The NIS registries for 2005 and 2006 were used for initial model training, and the data from 2007 were used for testing and validation. International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes were used to identify subjects undergoing colon resection and postoperative C-Diff development. The ml-BBNs were trained using a stepwise process. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was conducted and area under the curve (AUC), positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) were calculated. Results: From over 24 million admissions, 170,363 undergoing colon resection met the inclusion criteria. Overall, 1.7% developed postoperative C-Diff. Using the ml-BBN to estimate C-Diff risk, model AUC is 0.75. Using only known a priori features, AUC is 0.74. The model has two configurations: a high sensitivity and a high specificity configuration. Sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV are 81.0%, 50.1%, 2.6%, and 99.4% for high sensitivity and 55.4%, 81.3%, 3.5%, and 99.1% for high specificity. C-Diff has 4 first-degree associates that influence the probability of C-Diff development: weight loss, tumor metastases, inflammation/infections, and disease severity. Conclusions: Machine-learned BBNs can produce robust estimates of postoperative C-Diff infection, allowing clinicians to identify high-risk patients and potentially implement measures to reduce its incidence or morbidity.

Original languageEnglish GB
Article numbere6
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian belief network
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Colectomy
  • NIS
  • Pseudomembranous colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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