A DAG-based comparison of interventional effect underestimation between composite endpoint and multi-state analysis in cardiovascular trials

Antje Jahn-Eimermacher, Katharina Ingel, Stella Preussler, Antoni Bayes-Genis, Harald Binder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Composite endpoints comprising hospital admissions and death are the primary outcome in many cardiovascular clinical trials. For statistical analysis, a Cox proportional hazards model for the time to first event is commonly applied. There is an ongoing debate on whether multiple episodes per individual should be incorporated into the primary analysis. While the advantages in terms of power are readily apparent, potential biases have been mostly overlooked so far. Methods: Motivated by a randomized controlled clinical trial in heart failure patients, we use directed acyclic graphs (DAG) to investigate potential sources of bias in treatment effect estimates, depending on whether only the first or multiple episodes are considered. The biases first are explained in simplified examples and then more thoroughly investigated in simulation studies that mimic realistic patterns. Results: Particularly the Cox model is prone to potentially severe selection bias and direct effect bias, resulting in underestimation when restricting the analysis to first events. We find that both kinds of bias can simultaneously be reduced by adequately incorporating recurrent events into the analysis model. Correspondingly, we point out appropriate proportional hazards-based multi-state models for decreasing bias and increasing power when analyzing multiple-episode composite endpoints in randomized clinical trials. Conclusions: Incorporating multiple episodes per individual into the primary analysis can reduce the bias of a treatment's total effect estimate. Our findings will help to move beyond the paradigm of considering first events only for approaches that use more information from the trial and augment interpretability, as has been called for in cardiovascular research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number92
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Bias
  • Cardiovascular
  • Composite endpoint
  • Hospital admissions
  • Multi-state models
  • Recurrent events

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