Assessing Discriminative Performance at External Validation of Clinical Prediction Models

Daan Nieboer, T van der Ploeg, Ewout Steyerberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction External validation studies are essential to study the generalizability of prediction models. Recently a permutation test, focusing on discrimination as quantified by the c-statistic, was proposed to judge whether a prediction model is transportable to a new setting. We aimed to evaluate this test and compare it to previously proposed procedures to judge any changes in c-statistic from development to external validation setting. Methods We compared the use of the permutation test to the use of benchmark values of the c-statistic following from a previously proposed framework to judge transportability of a prediction model. In a simulation study we developed a prediction model with logistic regression on a development set and validated them in the validation set. We concentrated on two scenarios: 1) the case-mix was more heterogeneous and predictor effects were weaker in the validation set compared to the development set, and 2) the case-mix was less heterogeneous in the validation set and predictor effects were identical in the validation and development set. Furthermore we illustrated the methods in a case study using 15 datasets of patients suffering from traumatic brain injury. Results The permutation test indicated that the validation and development set were homogenous in scenario 1 (in almost all simulated samples) and heterogeneous in scenario 2 (in 17%-39% of simulated samples). Previously proposed benchmark values of the c-statistic and the standard deviation of the linear predictors correctly pointed at the more heterogeneous case-mix in scenario 1 and the less heterogeneous case-mix in scenario 2. Conclusion The recently proposed permutation test may provide misleading results when externally validating prediction models in the presence of case-mix differences between the development and validation population. To correctly interpret the c-statistic found at external validation it is crucial to disentangle case-mix differences from incorrect regression coefficients.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalPLoS One (print)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Research programs

  • EMC NIHES-02-65-01

Cite this