Applying propensity scores estimated in a full cohort to adjust for confounding in subgroup analyses
Background<br>A correctly specified propensity score (PS) estimated in a cohort (“cohort PS”) should, in expectation, remain valid in a subgroup population.<br>Objective<br>We sought to determine whether using a cohort PS can be validly applied to subgroup analyses and, thus, add efficiency to studies with many subgroups or restricted data.<br>Methods<br>In each of three cohort studies, we estimated a cohort PS, defined five subgroups, and then estimated subgroup-specific PSs. We compared difference in treatment effect estimates for subgroup analyses adjusted by cohort PSs versus subgroup-specific PSs. Then, over 10 million times, we simulated a population with known characteristics of confounding, subgroup size, treatment interactions, and treatment effect and again assessed difference in point estimates.<br>Results<br>We observed that point estimates in most subgroups were substantially similar with the two methods of adjustment. In simulations, the effect estimates differed by a median of 3.4% (interquartile (IQ) range 1.3–10.0%). The IQ range exceeded 10% only in cases where the subgroup had <?1000 patients or few outcome events.<br>Conclusions<br>Our empirical and simulation results indicated that using a cohort PS in subgroup analyses was a feasible approach, particularly in larger subgroups.