There are often many missing values in medical data, which directly affect the accuracy of clinical decision making. Discharge assessment is an important part of clinical decision making. Taking the discharge assessment of patients with spontaneous supratentorial intracerebral hemorrhage as an example, this study adopted the missing data processing evaluation criteria more suitable for clinical decision making, aiming at systematically exploring the performance and applicability of single machine learning algorithms and ensemble learning (EL) under different data missing scenarios, as well as whether they had more advantages than traditional methods, so as to provide basis and reference for the selection of suitable missing data processing method in practical clinical decision making.
The whole process consisted of four main steps: (1) Based on the original complete data set, missing data was generated by simulation under different missing scenarios (missing mechanisms, missing proportions and ratios of missing proportions of each group). (2) Machine learning and traditional methods (eight methods in total) were applied to impute missing values. (3) The performances of imputation techniques were evaluated and compared by estimating the sensitivity, AUC and Kappa values of prediction models. (4) Statistical tests were used to evaluate whether the observed performance differences were statistically significant.
The performances of missing data processing methods were different to a certain extent in different missing scenarios. On the whole, machine learning had better imputation performance than traditional methods, especially in scenarios with high missing proportions. Compared with single machine learning algorithms, the performance of EL was more prominent, followed by neural networks. Meanwhile, EL was most suitable for missing imputation under MAR (the ratio of missing proportion 2:1) mechanism, and its average sensitivity, AUC and Kappa values reached 0.908, 0.924 and 0.596 respectively.
In clinical decision making, the characteristics of missing data should be actively explored before formulating missing data processing strategies. The outstanding imputation performance of machine learning methods, especially EL, shed light on the development of missing data processing technology, and provided methodological support for clinical decision making in presence of incomplete data.