Bias in Amputation Research; Impact of Subjects Missed from a Prospective Study

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 08/2012; 7(8):e43629. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043629
Source: PubMed


For research findings to be generalized, a sample must be representative of the actual population of interest. Lower limb amputation is most frequently performed in older patients with vascular disease, a population that is often under-represented in research. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of selection bias by comparing characteristics from a sample included in a prospective study of phantom pain with the actual population who underwent amputation. Only 27% of all potential patients were referred during the first year of the prospective study. The referred patients were 8 years younger (p<0.001) and less likely to have had amputation because of a vascular condition, diabetes or infection (p=0.003) than those not referred. There was also a significant difference in one year survival between the groups; 67% of referred patients survived compared with just 40% of non-referred patients (p=0.004). The biased population in the phantom pain study may have resulted in an underestimation of phantom pain in the original study and subsequent protective factors should be considered within the context of the younger population reported. Selection bias is common in amputation research, and research methods to minimize its impact must be given greater attention.

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