Quantifying the Impact of Chronic Ischemic Injury on Clinical Outcomes in Acute Stroke With Machine Learning

Acute stroke is often superimposed on chronic damage from previous cerebrovascular events. This background will inevitably modulate the impact of acute injury on clinical outcomes to an extent that will depend on the precise anatomical pattern of damage. Previous attempts to quantify such modulation have employed only reductive models that ignore anatomical detail. The combination of automated image processing, large-scale data, and machine learning now enables us to quantify the impact of this with high-dimensional multivariate models sensitive to individual variations in the detailed anatomical pattern. We introduce and validate a new automated chronic lesion segmentation routine for use with non-contrast CT brain scans, combining non-parametric outlier-detection score, Zeta, with an unsupervised 3-dimensional maximum-flow, minimum-cut algorithm.

The routine was then applied to a dataset of 1,704 stroke patient scans, obtained at their presentation to a hyper-acute stroke unit (St George’s Hospital, London, UK), and used to train a support vector machine (SVM) model to predict between low (0-2) and high (3-6) pre-admission and discharge modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores, quantifying performance by the area under the receiver operating curve (AUROC). In this single center retrospective observational study, our SVM models were able to differentiate between low (0-2) and high (3-6) pre-admission and discharge mRS scores with an AUROC of 0.77 (95% confidence interval of 0.74-0.79), and 0.76 (0.74-0.78), respectively.

The chronic lesion segmentation routine achieved a mean (standard deviation) sensitivity, specificity and Dice similarity coefficient of 0.746 (0.069), 0.999 (0.001), and 0.717 (0.091), respectively. We have demonstrated that machine learning models capable of capturing the high-dimensional features of chronic injuries are able to stratify patients-at the time of presentation-by pre-admission and discharge mRS scores. Our fully automated chronic stroke lesion segmentation routine simplifies this process, and utilizes routinely collected CT head scans, thereby facilitating future large-scale studies to develop supportive clinical decision tools.