The missing indicator approach for censored covariates subject to limit of detection in logistic regression models

Sy Han Chiou, Rebecca A. Betensky, Raji Balasubramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: In several biomedical studies, one or more exposures of interest may be subject to nonrandom missingness because of the failure of the measurement assay at levels below its limit of detection. This issue is commonly encountered in studies of the metabolome using tandem mass spectrometry–based technologies. Owing to a large number of metabolites measured in these studies, preserving statistical power is of utmost interest. In this article, we evaluate the small sample properties of the missing indicator approach in logistic and conditional logistic regression models. Methods: For nested case-control or matched case control study designs, we evaluate the bias, power, and type I error associated with the missing indicator method using simulation. We compare the missing indicator approach to complete case analysis and several imputation approaches. Results: We show that under a variety of settings, the missing indicator approach outperforms complete case analysis and other imputation approaches with regard to bias, mean squared error, and power. Conclusions: For nested case-control and matched study designs of modest sample sizes, the missing indicator model minimizes loss of information and thus provides an attractive alternative to the oft-used complete case analysis and other imputation approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
StatePublished - Oct 2019



  • Limit of detection
  • Logistics regression
  • Matched design
  • Metabolomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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