Assessing the Course of Organ Dysfunction Using Joint Longitudinal and Time-to-Event Modeling in the Vasopressin and Septic Shock Trial.

Non-mortality septic shock outcomes (e.g., Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score) are important clinical endpoints in pivotal sepsis trials. However, comparisons of observed longitudinal non-mortality outcomes between study groups can be biased if death is unequal between study groups or is associated with an intervention (i.e., informative censoring). We compared the effects of vasopressin versus norepinephrine on the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score in the Vasopressin and Septic Shock Trial to illustrate the use of joint modeling to help minimize potential bias from informative censoring. Design:Secondary analysis of the Vasopressin and Septic Shock Trial data. Setting:Twenty-seven ICUs in Canada, Australia, and United States. Subjects:Seven hundred sixty-three participants with septic shock who received blinded vasopressin (n = 389) or norepinephrine infusions (n = 374). Measurements and Main Results:Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores were calculated daily until discharge, death, or day 28 after randomization. Mortality was numerically higher in the norepinephrine arm (28 d mortality of 39% vs 35%; p = 0.25), and there was a positive association between higher Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores and patient mortality, characteristics that suggest a potential for bias from informative censoring of Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores by death. The best-fitting joint longitudinal (i.e., linear mixed-effects model) and survival (i.e., Cox proportional hazards model for the time-to-death) model showed that norepinephrine was associated with a more rapid improvement in the total Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score through day 4, and then the daily Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores converged and overlapped for the remainder of the study period. Conclusions:Short-term reversal of organ dysfunction occurred more rapidly with norepinephrine compared with vasopressin, although differences between study arms did not persist after day 4. Joint models are an accessible methodology that could be used in critical care trials to assess the effects of interventions on the longitudinal progression of key outcomes (e.g., organ dysfunction, biomarkers, or quality of life) that may be informatively truncated by death or other censoring events.