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Original research
Evaluation of propensity score used in cardiovascular research: a cross-sectional survey and guidance document
  1. Michelle Samuel1,2,
  2. Brice Batomen2,
  3. Julie Rouette2,
  4. Joanne Kim2,
  5. Robert W Platt2,
  6. James M Brophy1,2,
  7. Jay S Kaufman2
  1. 1 Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  2. 2 Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jay S Kaufman; jay.kaufman{at}


Background Propensity score (PS) methods are frequently used in cardiovascular clinical research. Previous evaluations revealed poor reporting of PS methods, however a comprehensive and current evaluation of PS use and reporting is lacking. The objectives of the present survey were to (1) evaluate the quality of PS methods in cardiovascular publications, (2) summarise PS methods and (3) propose key reporting elements for PS publications.

Methods A PubMed search for cardiovascular PS articles published between 2010 and 2017 in high-impact general medical (top five by impact factor) and cardiovascular (top three by impact factor) journals was performed. Articles were evaluated for the reporting of PS techniques and methods. Data extraction elements were identified from the PS literature and extraction forms were pilot tested.

Results Of the 306 PS articles identified, most were published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology (29%; n=88), and Circulation (27%, n=81), followed by European Heart Journal (15%; n=47). PS matching was performed most often, followed by direct adjustment, inverse probability of treatment weighting and stratification. Most studies (77%; n=193) selected variables to include in the PS model a priori. A total of 38% (n=116) of studies did not report standardised mean differences, but instead relied on hypothesis testing. For matching, 92% (n=193) of articles presented the balance of covariates. Overall, interpretations of the effect estimates corresponded to the PS method conducted or described in 49% (n=150) of the reviewed articles.

Discussion Although PS methods are frequently used in high-impact medical journals, reporting of methodological details has been inconsistent. Improved reporting of PS results is warranted and these proposals should aid both researchers and consumers in the presentation and interpretation of PS methods.

  • cardiac epidemiology
  • cardiology
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors All authors (MS, BB, JR, JK, RWP, JB, JSK) contributed to the development of the research proposal, development of the data extraction form and revised the manuscript. MS, BB, JR and JK completed the data extraction and MS wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding MS, BB and JK are supported by doctoral funding grants from Fonds de Research Santé Quebec (FRQS) and JR is supported by a doctoral funding grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Article is a systematic review and all data is presented in the manuscript or supplement.