Appraising prediction research: a guide and meta-review on bias and applicability assessment using the Prediction model Risk Of Bias ASsessment Tool (PROBAST)

Ype de Jong, Chava L. Ramspek, Carmine Zoccali, Kitty J. Jager, Friedo W. Dekker, Merel van Diepen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Over the past few years, a large number of prediction models have been published, often of poor methodological quality. Seemingly objective and straightforward, prediction models provide a risk estimate for the outcome of interest, usually based on readily available clinical information. Yet, using models of substandard methodological rigour, especially without external validation, may result in incorrect risk estimates and consequently misclassification. To assess and combat bias in prediction research the prediction model risk of bias assessment tool (PROBAST) was published in 2019. This risk of bias (ROB) tool includes four domains and 20 signalling questions highlighting methodological flaws, and provides guidance in assessing the applicability of the model. In this paper, the PROBAST will be discussed, along with an in-depth review of two commonly encountered pitfalls in prediction modelling that may induce bias: overfitting and composite endpoints. We illustrate the prevalence of potential bias in prediction models with a meta-review of 50 systematic reviews that used the PROBAST to appraise their included studies, thus including 1510 different studies on 2104 prediction models. All domains showed an unclear or high ROB; these results were markedly stable over time, highlighting the urgent need for attention on bias in prediction research. This article aims to do just that by providing (1) the clinician with tools to evaluate the (methodological) quality of a clinical prediction model, (2) the researcher working on a review with methods to appraise the included models, and (3) the researcher developing a model with suggestions to improve model quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)939-947
Number of pages9
JournalNephrology (Carlton, Vic.)
Issue number12
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • clinical epidemiology
  • epidemiology
  • evidence-based medicine
  • medical education
  • meta-analysis

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