Self-controlled case series methods: an alternative to standard epidemiological study designs

Petersen, Irene; Douglas, Ian and Whitaker, Heather (2016). Self-controlled case series methods: an alternative to standard epidemiological study designs. British Medical Journal, 354, article no. i4515.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4515

Abstract

The self controlled case series (SCCS) method is an epidemiological study design for which individuals act as their own control—ie, comparisons are made within individuals. Hence, only individuals who have experienced an event are included and all time invariant confounding is eliminated. The temporal association between a transient exposure and an event is estimated. SCCS was originally developed for evaluation of vaccine safety, but has since been applied in a range of settings where exact information on the size of the population at risk is lacking or identification of an appropriate comparison group is difficult—eg, for studies of adverse effects of drug treatments. We provide an overview of the SCCS method, with examples of its use, discuss limitations, assumptions, and potential biases that can arise where assumptions are not met, and provide solutions and examples of good practice.

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