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In Scientific reports ; h5-index 158.0

In clinical research, there is a growing interest in the use of propensity score-based methods to estimate causal effects. G-computation is an alternative because of its high statistical power. Machine learning is also increasingly used because of its possible robustness to model misspecification. In this paper, we aimed to propose an approach that combines machine learning and G-computation when both the outcome and the exposure status are binary and is able to deal with small samples. We evaluated the performances of several methods, including penalized logistic regressions, a neural network, a support vector machine, boosted classification and regression trees, and a super learner through simulations. We proposed six different scenarios characterised by various sample sizes, numbers of covariates and relationships between covariates, exposure statuses, and outcomes. We have also illustrated the application of these methods, in which they were used to estimate the efficacy of barbiturates prescribed during the first 24 h of an episode of intracranial hypertension. In the context of GC, for estimating the individual outcome probabilities in two counterfactual worlds, we reported that the super learner tended to outperform the other approaches in terms of both bias and variance, especially for small sample sizes. The support vector machine performed well, but its mean bias was slightly higher than that of the super learner. In the investigated scenarios, G-computation associated with the super learner was a performant method for drawing causal inferences, even from small sample sizes.

Le Borgne Florent, Chatton Arthur, Léger Maxime, Lenain Rémi, Foucher Yohann