, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 317-328
Date: 28 Nov 2009

KmL: k-means for longitudinal data

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Cohort studies are becoming essential tools in epidemiological research. In these studies, measurements are not restricted to single variables but can be seen as trajectories. Statistical methods used to determine homogeneous patient trajectories can be separated into two families: model-based methods (like Proc Traj) and partitional clustering (non-parametric algorithms like k-means). KmL is a new implementation of k-means designed to work specifically on longitudinal data. It provides scope for dealing with missing values and runs the algorithm several times, varying the starting conditions and/or the number of clusters sought; its graphical interface helps the user to choose the appropriate number of clusters when the classic criterion is not efficient. To check KmL efficiency, we compare its performances to Proc Traj both on artificial and real data. The two techniques give very close clustering when trajectories follow polynomial curves. KmL gives much better results on non-polynomial trajectories.