Using Machine Learning and Deep Learning Algorithms to Predict Postoperative Outcomes Following Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Rushmin Khazanchi*, Anitesh Bajaj, Rohan M. Shah, Austin R. Chen, Samuel G. Reyes, Steven S. Kurapaty, Wellington K. Hsu, Alpesh A. Patel, Srikanth N. Divi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Study Design: A retrospective cohort study from a multisite academic medical center. Objective: To construct, evaluate, and interpret a series of machine learning models to predict outcomes related to inpatient health care resource utilization for patients undergoing anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). Summary of Background Data: Reducing postoperative health care utilization is an important goal for improving the delivery of surgical care and serves as a metric for quality assessment. Recent data has shown marked hospital resource utilization after ACDF surgery, including readmissions, and ED visits. The burden of postoperative health care use presents a potential application of machine learning techniques, which may be capable of accurately identifying at-risk patients using patient-specific predictors. Methods: Patients 18-88 years old who underwent ACDF from 2011 to 2021 at a multisite academic center and had preoperative lab values within 3 months of surgery were included. Outcomes analyzed included 90-day readmissions, postoperative length of stay, and nonhome discharge. Four machine learning models - Extreme Gradient Boosted Trees, Balanced Random Forest, Elastic-Net Penalized Logistic Regression, and a Neural Network - were trained and evaluated through the Area Under the Curve estimates. Feature importance scores were computed for the highest-performing model per outcome through model-specific metrics. Results: A total of 1026 cases were included in the analysis cohort. All machine learning models were predictive for outcomes of interest, with the Random Forest algorithm consistently demonstrating the strongest average area under the curve performance, with a peak performance of 0.84 for nonhome discharge. Important features varied per outcome, though age, body mass index, American Society of Anesthesiologists classification >2, and medical comorbidities were highly weighted in the studied outcomes. Conclusions: Machine learning models were successfully applied and predictive of postoperative health utilization after ACDF. Deployment of these tools can assist clinicians in determining high-risk patients. Level of Evidence: III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-149
Number of pages7
JournalClinical spine surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023


  • anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • institutional cohort
  • length of stay
  • machine learning
  • nonhome discharge
  • readmission
  • resource utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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