Purpose
Optimal triage of patients at risk of critical illness requires accurate risk prediction, yet little data exists on the performance criteria required of a potential biomarker to be clinically useful.
Materials and Methods
We studied an adult cohort of non-arrest, non-trauma emergency medical services encounters transported to a hospital from 2002–2006. We simulated hypothetical biomarkers increasingly associated with critical illness during hospitalization, and determined the biomarker strength and sample size necessary to improve risk classification beyond a best clinical model.
Results
Of 57,647 encounters, 3,121 (5.4%) were hospitalized with critical illness and 54,526 (94.6%) without critical illness. The addition of a moderate strength biomarker (odds ratio=3.0 for critical illness) to a clinical model improved discrimination (c-statistic 0.85 vs. 0.8, p<0.01), reclassification (net reclassification improvement=0.15, 95%CI: 0.13,0.18), and increased the proportion of cases in the highest risk categoryby+8.6% (95%CI: 7.5,10.8%). Introducing correlation between the biomarker and physiological variables in the clinical risk score did not modify the results. Statistically significant changes in net reclassification required a sample size of at least 1000 subjects.
Conclusions
Clinical models for triage of critical illness could be significantly improved by incorporating biomarkers, yet, substantial sample sizes and biomarker strength may be required.