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In 1958, Edward L. Kaplan and Paul Meier collaborated to publish a seminal paper on
how to deal with incomplete observations. Subsequently, the Kaplan-Meier curves and
estimates of survival data have become a familiar way of dealing with differing survival
times (times-to-event), especially when not all the subjects continue in the study.
"Survival" times need not relate to actual survival with death being the event; the
"event" may be any event of interest. Kaplan-Meier analyses are also used in nonmedical
disciplines. The purpose of this article is to explain how Kaplan-Meier curves are
generated and analyzed. Throughout this article, we will discuss Kaplan-Meier estimates
in the context of "survival" before the event of interest. Two small groups of hypothetical
data are used as examples in order for the reader to clearly see how the process works.
These examples also illustrate the crucially important point that comparative analysis
depends upon the whole curve and not upon isolated points.
Copyright 2010 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.