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Keywords:

  • missing cause of failure;
  • multiple imputations;
  • Fine and Gray model;
  • cumulative incidence;
  • competing risks

Abstract

When competing risks data arise, information on the actual cause of failure for some subjects might be missing. Therefore, a cause-specific proportional hazards model together with multiple imputation (MI) methods have been used to analyze such data. Modelling the cumulative incidence function is also of interest, and thus we investigate the proportional subdistribution hazards model (Fine and Gray model) together with MI methods as a modelling approach for competing risks data with missing cause of failure. Possible strategies for analyzing such data include the complete case analysis as well as an analysis where the missing causes are classified as an additional failure type. These approaches, however, may produce misleading results in clinical settings. In the present work we investigate the bias of the parameter estimates when fitting the Fine and Gray model in the above modelling approaches. We also apply the MI method and evaluate its comparative performance under various missing data scenarios. Results from simulation experiments showed that there is substantial bias in the estimates when fitting the Fine and Gray model with naive techniques for missing data, under missing at random cause of failure. Compared to those techniques the MI-based method gave estimates with much smaller biases and coverage probabilities of 95 per cent confidence intervals closer to the nominal level. All three methods were also applied on real data modelling time to AIDS or non-AIDS cause of death in HIV-1 infected individuals. Copyright 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.