Impact of definitions of loss to follow-up (LTFU) in antiretroviral therapy program evaluation: variation in the definition can have an appreciable impact on estimated proportions of LTFU.
Sep 30 2013
OBJECTIVE: To examine the impact of different definitions of loss to follow-up (LTFU) on estimates of program outcomes in cohort studies of patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: We examined the impact of different definitions of LTFU using data from the International Epidemiological Databases to Evaluate AIDS-Southern Africa. The reference approach, Definition A, was compared with five alternative scenarios that differed in eligibility for analysis and the date assigned to the LTFU outcome. Kaplan-Meier estimates of LTFU were calculated up to 2 years after starting ART.
RESULTS: Estimated cumulative LTFU were 14% and 22% at 12 and 24 months, respectively, using the reference approach. Differences in the proportion LTFU were reported in the alternative scenarios with 12-month estimates of LTFU varying by up to 39% compared with Definition A. Differences were largest when the date assigned to the LTFU outcome was 6 months after the date of last contact and when the site-specific definition of LTFU was used.
CONCLUSION: Variation in the definitions of LTFU within cohort analyses can have an appreciable impact on estimated proportions of LTFU over 2 years of follow-up. Use of a standardized definition of LTFU is needed to accurately measure program effectiveness and comparability between programs.