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Joint generalized estimating equations for multivariate longitudinal binary outcomes with missing data: an application to acquired immune deficiency syndrome data

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In a large, prospective longitudinal study designed to monitor cardiac abnormalities in children born to women who are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, instead of a single outcome variable, there are multiple binary outcomes (e.g. abnormal heart rate, abnormal blood pressure and abnormal heart wall thickness) considered as joint measures of heart function over time. In the presence of missing responses at some time points, longitudinal marginal models for these multiple outcomes can be estimated by using generalized estimating equations (GEEs), and consistent estimates can be obtained under the assumption of a missingness completely at random mechanism. When the missing data mechanism is missingness at random, i.e. the probability of missing a particular outcome at a time point depends on observed values of that outcome and the remaining outcomes at other time points, we propose joint estimation of the marginal models by using a single modified GEE based on an EM-type algorithm. The method proposed is motivated by the longitudinal study of cardiac abnormalities in children who were born to women infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, and analyses of these data are presented to illustrate the application of the method. Further, in an asymptotic study of bias, we show that, under a missingness at random mechanism in which missingness depends on all observed outcome variables, our joint estimation via the modified GEE produces almost unbiased estimates, provided that the correlation model has been correctly specified, whereas estimates from standard GEEs can lead to substantial bias.

Keywords: EM-type algorithm; Generalized estimating equations; Missingness at random; Missingness completely at random

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA 2: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA 3: Florida State University, Talahassee, USA 4: Emory University, Atlanta, USA 5: University of Miami School of Medicine, USA

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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