Esophageal variceal (EV) bleeding is a severe medical emergency related to cirrhosis. Early identification of cirrhotic patients with at a high risk of EV bleeding is key to improving outcomes and optimizing medical resources. This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of automated multimodal machine learning (MMML) for predicting EV bleeding by integrating endoscopic images and clinical structured data. This study mainly includes three steps: step 1, developing deep learning (DL) models using EV images by 12-month bleeding on TensorFlow (backbones include ResNet, Xception, EfficientNet, ViT and ConvMixer); step 2, training and internally validating MMML models integrating clinical structured data and DL model outputs to predict 12-month EV bleeding on an H2O-automated machine learning platform (algorithms include DL, XGBoost, GLM, GBM, RF, and stacking); and step 3, externally testing MMML models. Furthermore, existing clinical indices, e.g., the MELD score, Child‒Pugh score, APRI, and FIB-4, were also examined. Five DL models were transfer learning to the binary classification of EV endoscopic images at admission based on the occurrence or absence of bleeding events during the 12-month follow-up. An EfficientNet model achieved the highest accuracy of 0.868 in the validation set. Then, a series of MMML models, integrating clinical structured data and the output of the EfficientNet model, were automatedly trained to predict 12-month EV bleeding. A stacking model showed the highest accuracy (0.932), sensitivity (0.952), and F1-score (0.879) in the test dataset, which was also better than the existing indices. This study is the first to evaluate the feasibility of automated MMML in predicting 12-month EV bleeding based on endoscopic images and clinical variables.
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