Machine learning in vascular surgery: a systematic review and critical appraisal

Ben Li, Tiam Feridooni, Cesar Cuen-Ojeda, Teruko Kishibe, Charles de Mestral, Muhammad Mamdani, Mohammed Al-Omran

npj Digital Medicine, January 2022
DOI: 10.1038/s41746-021-00552-y


Machine learning (ML) is a rapidly advancing field with increasing utility in health care. We conducted a systematic review and critical appraisal of ML applications in vascular surgery. MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane CENTRAL were searched from inception to March 1, 2021. Study screening, data extraction, and quality assessment were performed by two independent reviewers, with a third author resolving discrepancies. All original studies reporting ML applications in vascular surgery were included. Publication trends, disease conditions, methodologies, and outcomes were summarized. Critical appraisal was conducted using the PROBAST risk-of-bias and TRIPOD reporting adherence tools. We included 212 studies from a pool of 2235 unique articles. ML techniques were used for diagnosis, prognosis, and image segmentation in carotid stenosis, aortic aneurysm/dissection, peripheral artery disease, diabetic foot ulcer, venous disease, and renal artery stenosis. The number of publications on ML in vascular surgery increased from 1 (1991-1996) to 118 (2016-2021). Most studies were retrospective and single center, with no randomized controlled trials. The median area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) was 0.88 (range 0.61-1.00), with 79.5% [62/78] studies reporting AUROC ≥ 0.80. Out of 22 studies comparing ML techniques to existing prediction tools, clinicians, or traditional regression models, 20 performed better and 2 performed similarly. Overall, 94.8% (201/212) studies had high risk-of-bias and adherence to reporting standards was poor with a rate of 41.4%. Despite improvements over time, study quality and reporting remain inadequate. Future studies should consider standardized tools such as PROBAST and TRIPOD to improve study quality and clinical applicability.