The "Dry-Run" Analysis: A Method for Evaluating Risk Scores for Confounding Control


Wyss R, Hansen BB, Ellis AR, Gagne JJ, Desai RJ, Glynn RJ, Stürmer T. The "Dry-Run" Analysis: A Method for Evaluating Risk Scores for Confounding Control. Am J Epidemiol. 2017;185 (9) :842-852.

Date Published:

2017 05 01


A propensity score (PS) model's ability to control confounding can be assessed by evaluating covariate balance across exposure groups after PS adjustment. The optimal strategy for evaluating a disease risk score (DRS) model's ability to control confounding is less clear. DRS models cannot be evaluated through balance checks within the full population, and they are usually assessed through prediction diagnostics and goodness-of-fit tests. A proposed alternative is the "dry-run" analysis, which divides the unexposed population into "pseudo-exposed" and "pseudo-unexposed" groups so that differences on observed covariates resemble differences between the actual exposed and unexposed populations. With no exposure effect separating the pseudo-exposed and pseudo-unexposed groups, a DRS model is evaluated by its ability to retrieve an unconfounded null estimate after adjustment in this pseudo-population. We used simulations and an empirical example to compare traditional DRS performance metrics with the dry-run validation. In simulations, the dry run often improved assessment of confounding control, compared with the C statistic and goodness-of-fit tests. In the empirical example, PS and DRS matching gave similar results and showed good performance in terms of covariate balance (PS matching) and controlling confounding in the dry-run analysis (DRS matching). The dry-run analysis may prove useful in evaluating confounding control through DRS models.
Last updated on 05/31/2019