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Reporting on Statistical Methods To Adjust for Confounding: A Cross-Sectional Survey

Marcus Müllner, MD; Hugh Matthews, BSc, MBBS; and Douglas G. Altman, DSc
[+] Article and Author Information

From BMJ London, and ICRF Medical Statistics Group, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Acknowledgments: The authors thank the BMJ staff, particularly Richard Smith, for providing the environment that enabled this research project.

Requests for Single Reprints: Marcus Müllner, MD, Universitätsklinik für Notfallmedizin, Allgemeines Krankenhaus Wien, Währinger Gürtel 18-20/6D, A-1090 Vienna, Austria; e-mail, marcus.muellner@univie.ac.at.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Müllner: Universitätsklinik für Notfallmedizin, Allgemeines Krankenhaus Wien, Währinger Gürtel 18-20/6D, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.

Mr. Matthews: Sandbanks, Graveney, Faversham, Kent ME13 9DJ, United Kingdom.

Dr. Altman: ICRF Medical Statistics Group, Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Institute of Health Sciences, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LF, United Kingdom.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: M. Müllner, H. Matthews, D.G. Altman.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: M. Müllner, D.G. Altman.

Drafting of the article: M. Müllner, H. Matthews, D.G. Altman.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: M. Müllner, H. Matthews, D.G. Altman.

Final approval of the article: M. Müllner, H. Matthews, D.G. Altman.

Statistical expertise: M. Müllner, D.G. Altman.

Administrative, technical, or logistic support: M. Müllner.

Collection and assembly of data: M. Müllner, H. Matthews.


Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(2):122-126. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-136-2-200201150-00009
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Background: The use of complex statistical models to adjust for confounding is common in medical research.

Objective: To determine the frequency and adequacy of adjustment for confounding in medical articles.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: 34 scientific medical journals with a high impact factor.

Measurements: Frequency of reporting on methods used to adjust for confounding in 537 original research articles published in January 1998.

Results: Of the 537 articles, 169 specified that adjustment for confounding was used. In 1 paper in 10, it was unclear which statistical method was used or for which variables adjustment was made. In 45% of papers, it was not clear how multicategory or continuous variables were treated in the analysis. Inadequate reporting was less frequent if an author was affiliated with a department of statistics, epidemiology, or public health and if articles were published in journals with a high impact factor.

Conclusions: Details of methods used to adjust for confounding are frequently not reported in original research articles.

Figures

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Figure.
Articles assessed for reporting of adjustment for confounding or baseline differences and whether adjustment was reported in the methods or results section.
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Summary for Patients

Reporting on Statistical Methods To Adjust for Confounding

The summary below is from the full report titled “Reporting on Statistical Methods To Adjust for Confounding: A Cross-Sectional Survey.” It is in the 15 January 2002 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 136, pages 122-126). The authors are M Müllner, H Matthews, and DG Altman.

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