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Background COPD and asthma exacerbations result in many emergency department admissions. Not all treatments are successful, often leading to hospital readmissions. Aims We sought to develop predictive models for exacerbation treatment outcome in a cohort of exacerbating asthma and COPD patients presenting to the emergency department. Methods Treatment failure was defined as the need for additional systemic corticosteroids (SCS) and/or antibiotics, hospital readmissison or death within 30 days of initial emergency department visit. We performed univariate analysis comparing characteristics of patients either given or not given SCS at exacerbation and of patients who succeeded versus failed treatment. Patient demographics, medications and exacerbation symptoms, physiology and biology were available. We developed multivariate random forest models to identify predictors of SCS prescription and for predicting treatment failure. Results Data were available for 81 patients, 43 (53%) of whom failed treatment. 64 (79%) of patients were given SCS. A random forest model using presence of wheeze at exacerbation and blood eosinophil percentage predicted SCS prescription with area under receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) 0.69. An 11 variable random forest model (which included medication, previous exacerbations, symptoms and quality of life scores) could predict treatment failure with AUC 0.81. A random forest model using just the two best predictors of treatment failure, namely, visual analogue scale for breathlessness and sputum purulence, predicted treatment failure with AUC 0.68. Conclusion Prediction of exacerbation treatment outcome can be achieved via supervised machine learning combining different predictors at exacerbation. Validation of our predictive models in separate, larger patient cohorts is required.

Original publication




Journal article




Public Library of Science (PLoS)

Publication Date





e0254425 - e0254425