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Which is more useful in predicting hospital mortality - dichotomised blood test results or actual test values? a retrospective study in two hospitals

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Background Routine blood tests are an integral part of clinical medicine and in interpreting blood test results clinicians have two broad options. (1) Dichotomise the blood tests into normal/abnormal or (2) use the actual values and overlook the reference values. We refer to these as the “binary” and the “non-binary” strategy respectively. We investigate which strategy is better at predicting the risk of death in hospital based on seven routinely undertaken blood tests (albumin, creatinine, haemoglobin, potassium, sodium, urea, and white blood cell count) using tree models to implement the two strategies. Methodology A retrospective database study of emergency admissions to an acute hospital during April 2009 to March 2010, involving 10,050 emergency admissions with routine blood tests undertaken within 24 hours of admission. We compared the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) curve for predicting in-hospital mortality using the binary and non-binary strategy. Results The mortality rate was 6.98% (701/10050). The mean predicted risk of death in those who died was significantly (p-value
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e46860
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2012


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