Measurement model choice influenced randomized controlled trial results

Rosalie Gorter*, Jean-Paul Fox, Adri Apeldoorn, Jos Twisk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


Objective In randomized controlled trials (RCTs), outcome variables are often patient-reported outcomes measured with questionnaires. Ideally, all available item information is used for score construction, which requires an item response theory (IRT) measurement model. However, in practice, the classical test theory measurement model (sum scores) is mostly used, and differences between response patterns leading to the same sum score are ignored. The enhanced differentiation between scores with IRT enables more precise estimation of individual trajectories over time and group effects. The objective of this study was to show the advantages of using IRT scores instead of sum scores when analyzing RCTs. Study Design and Setting Two studies are presented, a real-life RCT, and a simulation study. Both IRT and sum scores are used to measure the construct and are subsequently used as outcomes for effect calculation. Results The bias in RCT results is conditional on the measurement model that was used to construct the scores. A bias in estimated trend of around one standard deviation was found when sum scores were used, where IRT showed negligible bias. Conclusion Accurate statistical inferences are made from an RCT study when using IRT to estimate construct measurements. The use of sum scores leads to incorrect RCT results
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
JournalJournal of clinical epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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