A comparison of imputation methods in a longitudinal randomized clinical trial

Stat Med. 2005 Jul 30;24(14):2111-28. doi: 10.1002/sim.2099.


It is common for longitudinal clinical trials to face problems of item non-response, unit non-response, and drop-out. In this paper, we compare two alternative methods of handling multivariate incomplete data across a baseline assessment and three follow-up time points in a multi-centre randomized controlled trial of a disease management programme for late-life depression. One approach combines hot-deck (HD) multiple imputation using a predictive mean matching method for item non-response and the approximate Bayesian bootstrap for unit non-response. A second method is based on a multivariate normal (MVN) model using PROC MI in SAS software V8.2. These two methods are contrasted with a last observation carried forward (LOCF) technique and available-case (AC) analysis in a simulation study where replicate analyses are performed on subsets of the originally complete cases. Missing-data patterns were simulated to be consistent with missing-data patterns found in the originally incomplete cases, and observed complete data means were taken to be the targets of estimation. Not surprisingly, the LOCF and AC methods had poor coverage properties for many of the variables evaluated. Multiple imputation under the MVN model performed well for most variables but produced less than nominal coverage for variables with highly skewed distributions. The HD method consistently produced close to nominal coverage, with interval widths that were roughly 7 per cent larger on average than those produced from the MVN model.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Computer Simulation
  • Depression / therapy
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*