Nonparametric analysis of nonhomogeneous multistate processes with clustered observations

Biometrics. 2021 Jun;77(2):533-546. doi: 10.1111/biom.13327. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


Frequently, clinical trials and observational studies involve complex event history data with multiple events. When the observations are independent, the analysis of such studies can be based on standard methods for multistate models. However, the independence assumption is often violated, such as in multicenter studies, which makes standard methods improper. This work addresses the issue of nonparametric estimation and two-sample testing for the population-averaged transition and state occupation probabilities under general multistate models with cluster-correlated, right-censored, and/or left-truncated observations. The proposed methods do not impose assumptions regarding the within-cluster dependence, allow for informative cluster size, and are applicable to both Markov and non-Markov processes. Using empirical process theory, the estimators are shown to be uniformly consistent and to converge weakly to tight Gaussian processes. Closed-form variance estimators are derived, rigorous methodology for the calculation of simultaneous confidence bands is proposed, and the asymptotic properties of the nonparametric tests are established. Furthermore, I provide theoretical arguments for the validity of the nonparametric cluster bootstrap, which can be readily implemented in practice regardless of how complex the underlying multistate model is. Simulation studies show that the performance of the proposed methods is good, and that methods that ignore the within-cluster dependence can lead to invalid inferences. Finally, the methods are illustrated using data from a multicenter randomized controlled trial.

Keywords: multicenter; multistate model; nonparametric test; state occupation probability; transition probability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Probability
  • Statistics, Nonparametric