Outcome prediction of preterm birth is important for neonatal care, yet prediction performance using conventional statistical models remains insufficient. Machine learning has a high potential for complex outcome prediction. In this scoping review, we provide an overview of the current applications of machine learning models in the prediction of neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm infants, assess the quality of the developed models, and provide guidance for future application of machine learning models to predict neurodevelopmental outcomes of preterm infants.


A systematic search was performed using PubMed. Studies were included if they reported on neurodevelopmental outcome prediction in preterm infants using predictors from the neonatal period and applying machine learning techniques. Data extraction and quality assessment were independently performed by 2 reviewers.


Fourteen studies were included, focusing mainly on very or extreme preterm infants, predicting neurodevelopmental outcome before age 3 years, and mostly assessing outcomes using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. Predictors were most often based on MRI. The most prevalent machine learning techniques included linear regression and neural networks. None of the studies met all newly developed quality assessment criteria. Studies least prone to inflated performance showed promising results, with areas under the curve up to 0.86 for classification and R2 values up to 91% in continuous prediction. A limitation was that only 1 data source was used for the literature search.


Studies least prone to inflated prediction results are the most promising. The provided evaluation framework may contribute to improved quality of future machine learning models.

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