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Boosted classification trees result in minor to modest improvement in the accuracy in classifying cardiovascular outcomes compared to conventional classification trees

Austin PC, Lee DS. Am J Cardiovasc Dis. 2011; 1(1):1-15. Epub 2011 Apr 23.


Purpose — Classification trees are increasingly being used to classifying patients according to the presence or absence of a disease or health outcome. A limitation of classification trees is their limited predictive accuracy. In the data-mining and machine learning literature, boosting has been developed to improve classification. Boosting with classification trees iteratively grows classification trees in a sequence of reweighted datasets. In a given iteration, subjects that were misclassified in the previous iteration are weighted more highly than subjects that were correctly classified. Classifications from each of the classification trees in the sequence are combined through a weighted majority vote to produce a final classification. The authors' objective was to examine whether boosting improved the accuracy of classification trees for predicting outcomes in cardiovascular patients.

Methods — The authors examined the utility of boosting classification trees for classifying 30-day mortality outcomes in patients hospitalized with either acute myocardial infarction or congestive heart failure.

Results — Improvements in the misclassification rate using boosted classification trees were at best minor compared to when conventional classification trees were used. Minor to modest improvements to sensitivity were observed, with only a negligible reduction in specificity. For predicting cardiovascular mortality, boosted classification trees had high specificity, but low sensitivity.

Conclusions — Gains in predictive accuracy for predicting cardiovascular outcomes were less impressive than gains in performance observed in the data mining literature.

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Keywords: Coronary disease/Myocardial infarction Research and statistical methods

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