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Developing and validating risk prediction models in an individual participant data meta-analysis

Ahmed I, Debray TP, Moons KG, Riley RD

BACKGROUND: Risk prediction models estimate the risk of developing future outcomes for individuals based on one or more underlying characteristics (predictors). We review how researchers develop and validate risk prediction models within an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis, in order to assess the feasibility and conduct of the approach.

METHODS: A qualitative review of the aims, methodology, and reporting in 15 articles that developed a risk prediction model using IPD from multiple studies.

RESULTS: The IPD approach offers many opportunities but methodological challenges exist, including: unavailability of requested IPD, missing patient data and predictors, and between-study heterogeneity in methods of measurement, outcome definitions and predictor effects. Most articles develop their model using IPD from all available studies and perform only an internal validation (on the same set of data). Ten of the 15 articles did not allow for any study differences in baseline risk (intercepts), potentially limiting their model's applicability and performance in some populations. Only two articles used external validation (on different data), including a novel method which develops the model on all but one of the IPD studies, tests performance in the excluded study, and repeats by rotating the omitted study.

CONCLUSIONS: An IPD meta-analysis offers unique opportunities for risk prediction research. Researchers can make more of this by allowing separate model intercept terms for each study (population) to improve generalisability, and by using 'internal-external cross-validation' to simultaneously develop and validate their model. Methodological challenges can be reduced by prospectively planned collaborations that share IPD for risk prediction.

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Projects: Clinical prediction rules: towards a framework for meta-analysis, validation, and updating,