Assessing loss to follow-up in the MObile Technology for Improved Family Planning (MOTIF) randomised controlled trial

Trials. 2017 Dec 1;18(1):577. doi: 10.1186/s13063-017-2316-6.


Background: Loss to follow-up (LTFU) in clinical trials is an important source of bias that can affect statistical power and generalisability of findings. The aim of this paper is to assess factors associated with LTFU in the MObile Technology for Improved Family Planning (MOTIF) trial in Cambodia and compare how the result might have varied using different analytical methods.

Methods: Follow-up in the MOTIF trial was 86% at 4 months and 66% at 12 months. For the primary analysis, we undertook a complete case analysis, similar to the approach used in similar trials of interventions delivered by mobile phone to increase contraception use. We conducted an exploratory analysis and found that factors associated with LTFU were young age, lower socio-economic status, not planning to use post-abortion contraception, availability of phone credit and not providing additional contact numbers. We then undertook two analyses to estimate the effect of the intervention on the primary outcome at 4 and 12 months for comparison with the complete case analysis. First, we undertook multiple imputation, and second we conducted an analysis treating all participants' LTFU as non-users of contraception.

Results: Using multiple imputation, we found that the risk ratio was slightly increased at 4 months and slightly decreased at 12 months compared with the complete case analysis. When counting all participants' LTFU as non-users of contraception, we observed that, compared with the complete case analysis, the risk ratio was slightly decreased at 4 months and slightly increased at 12 months. Despite the changes in the risk ratio, use of the different analytical methods did not result in an effect using the complete case analysis becoming statistically significant or vice versa.

Conclusion: Future studies assessing contraception use might anticipate increased attrition amongst younger participants, those of lower socio-economic status or those who do not provide additional contact details. Attrition could be reduced by collecting as many contact details as possible, by providing incentives and possibly by enhanced counselling to groups at higher risk of LTFU on recruitment. Multiple imputation should be considered in addition to complete case analysis if LTFU not missing at random is expected or observed.

Trial registration:, NCT01823861 . Registered on 30 March 2013.

Keywords: Attrition; Contraception; Digital health; Family planning; Loss to follow-up; Randomised controlled trial; mHealth.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cambodia
  • Cell Phone*
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Family Planning Services / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lost to Follow-Up*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pregnancy
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult

Associated data