Can machine learning complement traditional medical device surveillance? A case-study of dual-chamber implantable cardioverter–defibrillators

Journal Medical Devices: Evidence and Research
Authors Ross JS, Bates J, Parzynski CS, Akar JG, Curtis JP, Desai NR, Freeman JV, Gamble GM, Kuntz R, Li SX, Marinac-Dabic D, Masoudi FA, Normand SLT, Ranasinghe I, Shaw RE, Krumholz HM
Year Published 2017
Link to publication



Machine learning methods may complement traditional analytic methods for medical device surveillance.


Using data from the National Cardiovascular Data Registry for implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) linked to Medicare administrative claims for longitudinal follow-up, we applied three statistical approaches to safety-signal detection for commonly used dual-chamber ICDs that used two propensity score (PS) models: one specified by subject-matter experts (PS-SME), and the other one by machine learning-based selection (PS-ML). The first approach used PS-SME and cumulative incidence (time-to-event), the second approach used PS-SME and cumulative risk (Data Extraction and Longitudinal Trend Analysis [DELTA]), and the third approach used PS-ML and cumulative risk (embedded feature selection). Safety-signal surveillance was conducted for eleven dual-chamber ICD models implanted at least 2,000 times over 3 years. Between 2006 and 2010, there were 71,948 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries who received dual-chamber ICDs. Cumulative device-specific unadjusted 3-year event rates varied for three surveyed safety signals: death from any cause, 12.8%-20.9%; nonfatal ICD-related adverse events, 19.3%-26.3%; and death from any cause or nonfatal ICD-related adverse event, 27.1%-37.6%. Agreement among safety signals detected/not detected between the time-to-event and DELTA approaches was 90.9% (360 of 396, k=0.068), between the time-to-event and embedded feature-selection approaches was 91.7% (363 of 396, k=-0.028), and between the DELTA and embedded feature selection approaches was 88.1% (349 of 396, k=-0.042).


Three statistical approaches, including one machine learning method, identified important safety signals, but without exact agreement. Ensemble methods may be needed to detect all safety signals for further evaluation during medical device surveillance.