Background Risk stratification is challenging in conditions, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and syncope, which can be the manifestation of many possible underlying diseases. In these cases, decision tools are unlikely to accurately identify all the different adverse events related to the possible etiologies. Attribute matching is a prediction method that matches an individual patient to a group of previously observed patients with identical characteristics and known outcome. We used syncope as a paradigm of clinical conditions presenting with aspecific symptoms to test the attribute matching method for the prediction of the personalized risk of adverse events. Methods We selected the 8 predictor variables common to the individual-patient dataset of 5 prospective emergency department studies enrolling 3388 syncope patients. We calculated all possible combinations and the number of patients in each combination. We compared the predictive accuracy of attribute matching and logistic regression. We then classified ten random patients according to clinical judgment and attribute matching. Results Attribute matching provided 253 of the 384 possible combinations in the dataset. Twelve (4.7%), 35 (13.8%), 50 (19.8%) and 160 (63.2%) combinations had a match size ≥50, ≥30, ≥20 and <10 patients, respectively. The AUC for the attribute matching and the multivariate model were 0.59 and 0.74, respectively. Conclusions Attribute matching is a promising tool for personalized and flexible risk prediction. Large databases will need to be used in future studies to test and apply the method in different conditions.
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