Adjustment for selection bias in observational studies with application to the analysis of autopsy data

S. Haneuse, J. Schildcrout, P. Crane, J. Sonnen, J. Breitner, E. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Background: The interpretation of neuropathological studies of dementia and Alzheimer's disease is complicated by potential selection mechanisms that can drive whether or not a study participant is observed to undergo autopsy. Notwithstanding this, there appears to have been little emphasis placed on potential selection bias in published reports from population-based neuropathological studies of dementia. Methods: We provide an overview of methodological issues relating to the identification of and adjustment for selection bias. When information is available on factors that govern selection, inverse-probability weighting provides an analytic approach to adjust for selection bias. The weights help alleviate bias by serving to bridge differences between the population from which the observed data may be viewed as a representative sample and the target population, identified as being of scientific interest. Results: We illustrate the methods with data obtained from the Adult Changes in Thought study. Adjustment for potential selection bias yields substantially strengthened association between neuropathological measurements and risk of dementia. Conclusions: Armed with analytic techniques to adjust for selection bias and to ensure generalizability of results from population-based neuropathological studies, researchers should consider incorporating information related to selection into their data collection schemes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Autopsy
  • Bootstrap
  • Dementia
  • Regression analysis
  • Selection bias
  • Weighted estimating equations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Clinical Neurology


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