Forecasting individual risk for long-term Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in emergency medical settings using biomedical data: A machine learning multicenter cohort study

Neurobiology of Stress

Katharina Schultebraucks, Marit Sijbrandij, Isaac Galatzer-Levy, Joanne Mouthaan, Miranda Olff & Mirjam van Zuiden


The necessary requirement of a traumatic event preceding the development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, theoretically allows for administering preventive and early interventions in the early aftermath of such events. Machine learning models including biomedical data to forecast PTSD outcome after trauma are highly promising for detection of individuals most in need of such interventions. In the current study, machine learning was applied on biomedical data collected within 48 h post-trauma to forecast individual risk for long-term PTSD, using a multinominal approach including the full spectrum of common PTSD symptom courses within one prognostic model for the first time. N = 417 patients (37.2% females; mean age 46.09 ± 15.88) admitted with (suspected) serious injury to two urban Academic Level-1 Trauma Centers were included. Routinely collected biomedical information (endocrine measures, vital signs, pharmacotherapy, demographics, injury and trauma characteristics) upon ED admission and subsequent 48 h was used. Cross-validated multi-nominal classification of longitudinal self-reported symptom severity (IES-R) over 12 months and bimodal classification of clinician-rated PTSD diagnosis (CAPS-IV) at 12 months post-trauma was performed using extreme Gradient Boosting and evaluated on hold-out sets. SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP) values were used to explain the derived models in human-interpretable form.

Good prediction of longitudinal PTSD symptom trajectories (multiclass AUC = 0.89) and clinician-rated PTSD at 12 months (AUC = 0.89) was achieved. Most relevant prognostic variables to forecast both multinominal and dichotomous PTSD outcomes included acute endocrine and psychophysiological measures and hospital-prescribed pharmacotherapy.

Thus, individual risk for long-term PTSD was accurately forecasted from biomedical information routinely collected within 48 h post-trauma. These results facilitate future targeted preventive interventions by enabling future early risk detection and provide further insights into the complex etiology of PTSD.

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