Sensitivity Analyses for Misclassification of Cause of Death in the Parametric G-Formula

Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Aug 1;187(8):1808-1816. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy028.


Cause-specific mortality is an important outcome in studies of interventions to improve survival, yet causes of death can be misclassified. Here, we present an approach to performing sensitivity analyses for misclassification of cause of death in the parametric g-formula. The g-formula is a useful method to estimate effects of interventions in epidemiologic research because it appropriately accounts for time-varying confounding affected by prior treatment and can estimate risk under dynamic treatment plans. We illustrate our approach using an example comparing acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related mortality under immediate and delayed treatment strategies in a cohort of therapy-naive adults entering care for human immunodeficiency virus infection in the United States. In the standard g-formula approach, 10-year risk of AIDS-related mortality under delayed treatment was 1.73 (95% CI: 1.17, 2.54) times the risk under immediate treatment. In a sensitivity analysis assuming that AIDS-related death was measured with sensitivity of 95% and specificity of 90%, the 10-year risk ratio comparing AIDS-related mortality between treatment plans was 1.89 (95% CI: 1.13, 3.14). When sensitivity and specificity are unknown, this approach can be used to estimate the effects of dynamic treatment plans under a range of plausible values of sensitivity and specificity of the recorded event type.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / mortality*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • Cause of Death*
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States / epidemiology