A Review of Propensity-Score Methods and Their Use in Cardiovascular Research

Can J Cardiol. 2016 Feb;32(2):259-65. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2015.05.015. Epub 2015 May 23.


Observational studies using propensity-score methods have been increasing in the cardiovascular literature because randomized controlled trials are not always feasible or ethical. However, propensity-score methods can be confusing, and the general audience may not fully understand the importance of this technique. The objectives of this review are to describe (1) the fundamentals of propensity score methods, (2) the techniques to assess for propensity-score model adequacy, (3) the 4 major methods for using the propensity score (matching, stratification, covariate adjustment, and inverse probability of treatment weighting [IPTW]) using examples from previously published cardiovascular studies, and (4) the strengths and weaknesses of these 4 techniques. Our review suggests that matching or IPTW using the propensity score have shown to be most effective in reducing bias of the treatment effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cardiology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Propensity Score*