Estimating bias from loss to follow-up in a prospective cohort study of bicycle crash injuries.
Tin Tin S., Woodward A., Ameratunga S.
BACKGROUND: Loss to follow-up, if related to exposures, confounders and outcomes of interest, may bias association estimates. We estimated the magnitude and direction of such bias in a prospective cohort study of crash injury among cyclists. METHODS: The Taupo Bicycle Study involved 2590 adult cyclists recruited from New Zealand's largest cycling event in 2006 and followed over a median period of 4.6 years through linkage to four administrative databases. We resurveyed the participants in 2009 and excluded three participants who died prior to the resurvey. We compared baseline characteristics and crash outcomes of the baseline (2006) and follow-up (those who responded in 2009) cohorts by ratios of relative frequencies and estimated potential bias from loss to follow-up on seven exposure-outcome associations of interest by ratios of HRs. RESULTS: Of the 2587 cyclists in the baseline cohort, 1526 (60%) responded to the follow-up survey. The responders were older, more educated and more socioeconomically advantaged. They were more experienced cyclists who often rode in a bunch, off-road or in the dark, but were less likely to engage in other risky cycling behaviours. Additionally, they experienced bicycle crashes more frequently during follow-up. The selection bias ranged between -10% and +9% for selected associations. CONCLUSIONS: Loss to follow-up was differential by demographic, cycling and behavioural risk characteristics as well as crash outcomes, but did not substantially bias association estimates of primary research interest.