Background: Real-time prediction of surgical duration can inform perioperative decisions and reduce surgical costs. We developed a machine learning approach that continuously incorporates preoperative and intraoperative information for forecasting surgical duration. Methods: Preoperative (e.g. procedure name) and intraoperative (e.g. medications and vital signs) variables were retrieved from anaesthetic records of surgeries performed between March 1, 2019 and October 31, 2019. A modular artificial neural network was developed and compared with a Bayesian approach and the scheduled surgical duration. Continuous ranked probability score (CRPS) was used as a measure of time error to assess model accuracy. For evaluating clinical performance, accuracy for each approach was assessed in identifying cases that ran beyond 15:00 (commonly scheduled end of shift), thus identifying opportunities to avoid overtime labour costs. Results: The analysis included 70 826 cases performed at eight hospitals. The modular artificial neural network had the lowest time error (CRPS: mean=13.8; standard deviation=35.4 min), which was significantly better (mean difference=6.4 min [95% confidence interval: 6.3–6.5]; P<0.001) than the Bayesian approach. The modular artificial neural network also had the highest accuracy in identifying operating theatres that would overrun 15:00 (accuracy at 1 h prior=89%) compared with the Bayesian approach (80%) and a naïve approach using the scheduled duration (78%). Conclusions: A real-time neural network model using preoperative and intraoperative data had significantly better performance than a Bayesian approach or scheduled duration, offering opportunities to avoid overtime labour costs and reduce the cost of surgery by providing superior real-time information for perioperative decision support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-837
Number of pages9
JournalBritish journal of anaesthesia
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • artificial neural network
  • economics
  • healthcare costs
  • machine learning
  • operating theatre efficiency
  • procedure duration
  • statistical model
  • surgery


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