Objective: Regression discontinuity (RD) is a quasi-experimental design that may provide valid estimates of treatment effects in case of continuous outcomes. We aimed to evaluate validity and precision in the RD design for dichotomous outcomes. Study Design and Setting: We performed validation studies in three large randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (Corticosteroid Randomization After Significant Head injury [CRASH], the Global Utilization of Streptokinase and Tissue Plasminogen Activator for Occluded Coronary Arteries [GUSTO], and PROspective Study of Pravastatin in elderly individuals at risk of vascular disease [PROSPER]). To mimic the RD design, we selected patients above and below a cutoff (e.g., age 75 years) randomized to treatment and control, respectively. Adjusted logistic regression models using restricted cubic splines (RCS) and polynomials and local logistic regression models estimated the odds ratio (OR) for treatment, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to indicate precision. Results: In CRASH, treatment increased mortality with OR 1.22 [95% CI 1.06–1.40] in the RCT. The RD estimates were 1.42 (0.94–2.16) and 1.13 (0.90–1.40) with RCS adjustment and local regression, respectively. In GUSTO, treatment reduced mortality (OR 0.83 [0.72–0.95]), with more extreme estimates in the RD analysis (OR 0.57 [0.35; 0.92] and 0.67 [0.51; 0.86]). In PROSPER, similar RCT and RD estimates were found, again with less precision in RD designs. Conclusion: We conclude that the RD design provides similar but substantially less precise treatment effect estimates compared with an RCT, with local regression being the preferred method of analysis.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Causal inference, Local logistic regression, Logistic regression, Polynomials, Quasi-experimental trials, Regression discontinuity design, Restricted cubic splines, Trial design
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2018.02.015, hdl.handle.net/1765/105385
Journal Journal of Clinical Epidemiology
Citation
van Leeuwen, N, Lingsma, H.F, Mooijaart, S.P, Nieboer, D, Trompet, S, & Steyerberg, E.W. (2018). Regression discontinuity was a valid design for dichotomous outcomes in three randomized trials. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 98, 70–79. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2018.02.015