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Pooling individual participant data from randomized controlled trials: Exploring potential loss of information

Abstract : Background: Pooling individual participant data to enable pooled analyses is often complicated by diversity in variables across available datasets. Therefore, recoding original variables is often necessary to build a pooled dataset. We aimed to quantify how much information is lost in this process and to what extent this jeopardizes validity of analyses results. Methods: Data were derived from a platform that was developed to pool data from three randomized controlled trials on the effect of treatment of cardiovascular risk factors on cognitive decline or dementia. We quantified loss of information using the R-squared of linear regression models with pooled variables as a function of their original variable(s). In case the R-squared was below 0.8, we additionally explored the potential impact of loss of information for future analyses. We did this second step by comparing whether the Beta coefficient of the predictor differed more than 10% when adding original or recoded variables as a confounder in a linear regression model. In a simulation we randomly sampled numbers, recoded those < = 1000 to 0 and those >1000 to 1 and varied the range of the continuous variable, the ratio of recoded zeroes to recoded ones, or both, and again extracted the R-squared from linear models to quantify information loss. Results: The R-squared was below 0.8 for 8 out of 91 recoded variables. In 4 cases this had a substantial impact on the regression models, particularly when a continuous variable was recoded into a discrete variable. Our simulation showed that the least information is lost when the ratio of recoded zeroes to ones is 1:1. Conclusions: Large, pooled datasets provide great opportunities, justifying the efforts for data harmonization. Still, caution is warranted when using recoded variables which variance is explained limitedly by their original variables as this may jeopardize the validity of study results.
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https://www.hal.inserm.fr/inserm-02893740
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Submitted on : Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - 3:02:30 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 3:12:02 AM

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Lennard van Wanrooij, Marieke Hoevenaar-Blom, Nicola Coley, Tiia Ngandu, Yannick Meiller, et al.. Pooling individual participant data from randomized controlled trials: Exploring potential loss of information. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2020, 15 (5), pp.e0232970. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0232970⟩. ⟨inserm-02893740⟩

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