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Biometrics. 2003 Dec;59(4):1151-7.

Exact log-rank tests for unequal follow-up.

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Department of Medical Computer Sciences, Section of Clinical Biometrics, University of Vienna Medical School, Spitalgasse 23, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


The asymptotic log-rank and generalized Wilcoxon tests are the standard procedures for comparing samples of possibly censored survival times. For comparison of samples of very different sizes, an exact test is available that is based on a complete permutation of log-rank or Wilcoxon scores. While the asymptotic tests do not keep their nominal sizes if sample sizes differ substantially, the exact complete permutation test requires equal follow-up of the samples. Therefore, we have developed and present two new exact tests also suitable for unequal follow-up. The first of these is an exact analogue of the asymptotic log-rank test and conditions on observed risk sets, whereas the second approach permutes survival times while conditioning on the realized follow-up in each group. In an empirical study, we compare the new procedures with the asymptotic log-rank test, the exact complete permutation test, and an earlier proposed approach that equalizes the follow-up distributions using artificial censoring. Results confirm highly satisfactory performance of the exact procedure conditioning on realized follow-up, particularly in case of unequal follow-up. The advantage of this test over other options of analysis is finally exemplified in the analysis of a breast cancer study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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