A comparison of interview data and medical records for previous medical conditions and surgery

Martha S. Linet, Siobán D. Harlow, Joseph K. McLaughlin, Lee D. McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Although interview information is usually the sole source of data in case-control studies, the accuracy of such data is infrequently assessed. We compared interview data on selected medical conditions and surgical procedures with medical records of subjects with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. We examined agreement by type of respondent (self or surrogate), age, sex, race, and type of hospital. The strength of agreement between the two data sources (as measured by kappa statistics) was substantial κ > 0.6) for splenectomy, appendectomy, asthma, and systemic lupus erythematosus; moderate κ > 0.4) for tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, tuberculosis, diverticulitis, hepatitis, rheumatic fever, and drug allergy; and poor gk < 0.3) for chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and most other types of allergy. In general, self respondents had more accurate recall than surrogate respondents. Among self respondents the strength of agreement tended to be greater for males than females, for whites than blacks, and for subjects from referral hospitals than for community hospitals. No consistent patterns were apparent by age. Despite a number of limitations, the findings of the study provide an addition to the scant epidemiologic literature on this topic, and suggest that for certain conditions medical record data collection may be needed to supplement interview information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1207-1213
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidemiologic methods
  • Medical records
  • Questionnaire reporting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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