Cluster randomized trials (CRTs) pose ethical challenges for investigators and ethics committees. This study describes the views and experiences of CRT researchers with respect to: (1) ethical challenges in CRTs; (2) the ethics review process for CRTs; and (3) the need for comprehensive ethics guidelines for CRTs.
Descriptive qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with a purposive sample of 20 experienced CRT researchers.
Informants expressed concern over the potential for bias that may result from requirements to obtain informed consent from research participants in CRTs. Informants suggested that the need for informed consent ought to be related to the type of intervention under study in a CRT. Informants rarely expressed concern regarding risks to research participants in CRTs, other than risks to privacy. Important issues identified in the research ethics literature, including fair subject selection and other justice issues, were not mentioned by informants. The ethics review process has had positive and negative impacts on CRT conduct. Informants stated that variability in ethics review between jurisdictions, and increasingly stringent ethics review in recent years, have hampered their ability to conduct CRTs. Many informants said that comprehensive ethics guidelines for CRTs would be helpful to researchers and research ethics committees.
Informants identified key ethical challenges in the conduct of CRTs, specifically relating to identifying subjects, seeking informed consent, and the use of gatekeepers. These data have since been used to identify topics for in-depth ethical analysis and to guide the development of comprehensive ethics guidelines for CRTs.
Cluster randomized trials; Research ethics; Informed consent; Clinical trials; Bioethics; Knowledge translation; Quality improvement; Implementation research
Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) improves echocardiographic parameters, symptoms, hospitalizations, and mortality in patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class III or IV symptoms with left ventricular systolic dysfunction, sinus rhythm, and a prolonged QRS duration. The effectiveness of CRT in patients with mild heart failure symptoms has not been systematically reviewed.
Methods and results
Randomized controlled trials of CRT in patients with NYHA Class I or II heart failure were identified from MEDLINE and EMBASE. The effects of CRT on left ventricular remodelling at 1 year were systematically reviewed, and the effects of CRT on clinical outcomes at 1 year were meta-analysed. Two studies met the pre-specified search criteria, with a total of 2430 patients (REVERSE n = 610 and MADIT-CRT n = 1820). CRT was associated with a reduction in heart failure events in both trials [combined OR 0.57, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.46–0.70], but not mortality (combined OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.67–1.36). The effect of CRT on the combined endpoint of heart failure events or death favoured CRT (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.51–0.77). CRT was also associated with improvement in left ventricular remodelling parameters in both studies, including a greater increase in left ventricular ejection fraction in the CRT group than in the control group, at 1 year after randomization. Serious adverse events were rare with CRT.
CRT reduces heart failure events in patients with mild heart failure symptoms, left ventricular dysfunction, sinus rhythm, and prolonged QRS duration.
Artificial cardiac pacemaker; Artificial pacemaker; Heart failure; Mortality; Cardiac resynchronization therapy
The cluster randomized trial (CRT) is used increasingly in knowledge translation research, quality improvement research, community based intervention studies, public health research, and research in developing countries. However, cluster trials raise difficult ethical issues that challenge researchers, research ethics committees, regulators, and sponsors as they seek to fulfill responsibly their respective roles. Our project will provide a systematic analysis of the ethics of cluster trials. Here we have outlined a series of six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation:
1. Who is a research subject?
2. From whom, how, and when must informed consent be obtained?
3. Does clinical equipoise apply to CRTs?
4. How do we determine if the benefits outweigh the risks of CRTs?
5. How ought vulnerable groups be protected in CRTs?
6. Who are gatekeepers and what are their responsibilities?
Subsequent papers in this series will address each of these areas, clarifying the ethical issues at stake and, where possible, arguing for a preferred solution. Our hope is that these papers will serve as the basis for the creation of international ethical guidelines for the design and conduct of cluster randomized trials.
The Nuremberg code defines the general ethical framework of medical research with participant consent as its cornerstone. In cluster randomized trials (CRT), obtaining participant informed consent raises logistic and methodologic concerns. First, with randomization of large clusters such as geographical areas, obtaining individual informed consent may be impossible. Second, participants in randomized clusters cannot avoid certain interventions, which implies that participant informed consent refers only to data collection, not administration of an intervention. Third, complete participant information may be a source of selection bias, which then raises methodological concerns. We assessed whether participant informed consent was required in such trials, which type of consent was required, and whether the trial was at risk of selection bias because of the very nature of participant information.
Methods and Findings
We systematically reviewed all reports of CRT published in MEDLINE in 2008 and surveyed corresponding authors regarding the nature of the informed consent and the process of participant inclusion. We identified 173 reports and obtained an answer from 113 authors (65.3%). In total, 23.7% of the reports lacked information on ethics committee approval or participant consent, 53.1% of authors declared that participant consent was for data collection only and 58.5% that the group allocation was not specified for participants. The process of recruitment (chronology of participant recruitment with regard to cluster randomization) was rarely reported, and we estimated that only 56.6% of the trials were free of potential selection bias.
For CRTs, the reporting of ethics committee approval and participant informed consent is less than optimal. Reports should describe whether participants consented for administration of an intervention and/or data collection. Finally, the process of participant recruitment should be fully described (namely, whether participants were informed of the allocation group before being recruited) for a better appraisal of the risk of selection bias.
This paper addresses the logistical challenges of implementing public health interventions in the setting of cluster randomized trials (CRTs), drawing on the experience of carrying out a CRT within a community-based health insurance (CBHI) scheme in rural India. Our CRT is seeking to improve the equity impact – i.e., reduce the differential in claims submission for hospitalization between poor and less poor – of this CBHI in rural areas. Five main challenges are identified and discussed: 1) assigning control clusters, 2) blinding, 3) implementing interventions simultaneously, 4) minimizing leakage, and 5) piggy-backing on a changing scheme. These challenges are not likely to be unique to low-income settings, although the fifth challenge is particularly likely when working with relatively small and resource-constrained programs. While compromises to methodological best-practice may reduce internal validity, they make the intervention more ‘real’, and potentially more applicable, to other programs and settings. Further, careful documentation of compromises allows them to be considered in the final analysis.
Cet article traite des difficultés logistiques rencontrées dans la mise en oeuvre d'interventions de santé publique dans le cadre d'essais contrôlés randomisés par grappes. Il tire les enseignements d'une expérience menée au sein d'un système d'assurance-santé communautaire dans une région rurale de l'Inde. Il s'agit d'une intervention randomisée par grappes qui a pour but d'améliorer l'équité du système, à savoir réduire l'écart entre les demandes de remboursement des frais d'hospitalisation soumises par les populations pauvres et moins pauvres. Cinq grandes difficultés sont présentées et discutées dans l'article : 1) la mise en place des groupes de contrôle, 2) la création des conditions d'un test en aveugle, 3) la simultanéité des interventions, 4) le risque de contamination entre les groupes et 5) l'implantation sur un dispositif connaissant des modifications. Ces problèmes ne sont pas propres au contexte des pays en développement, bien que le dernier soit plus courant dans le cas de petits programmes aux ressources limitées. Les concessions faites par rapport aux canons méthodologiques sont susceptibles de réduire la validité interne de l'étude, mais elles rendent l'intervention plus réaliste et potentiellement plus applicable à d'autres contextes. En outre, une documentation précise de ces compromis nous permet de les prendre en compte à la fin de l'analyse.
Health insurance; India; nongovernmental organizations; randomized controlled trials
Objectives To investigate the extent to which authors of cluster randomised trials adhered to two basic requirements of the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ uniform requirements for manuscripts (namely, reporting of research ethics review and informed consent), to determine whether the adequacy of reporting has improved over time, and to identify characteristics of cluster randomised trials associated with reporting of ethics practices.
Design Review of a random sample of published cluster randomised trials from an electronic search in Medline.
Setting Cluster randomised trials in health research published in English language journals from 2000 to 2008.
Study sample 300 cluster randomised trials published in 150 journals.
Results 77 (26%, 95% confidence interval 21% to 31%) trials failed to report ethics review. The proportion reporting ethics review increased significantly over time (P<0.001). Trials with data collection interventions at the individual level were more likely to report ethics review than were trials that used routine data sources only (79% (n=151) v 55% (23); P=0.008). Trials that accounted for clustering in the design and analysis were more likely to report ethics review. The median impact factor of the journal of publication was higher for trials that reported ethics review (3.4 v 2.3; P<0.001). 93 (31%, 26% to 36%) trials failed to report consent. Reporting of consent increased significantly over time (P<0.001). Trials with interventions targeting participants at the individual level were more likely to report consent than were trials with interventions targeting the cluster level (87% (90) v 48% (41); P<0.001). Trials with data collection interventions at the individual level were more likely to report consent than were those that used routine data sources only (78% (146) v 29% (11); P<0.001).
Conclusions Reporting of research ethics protections in cluster randomised trials is inadequate. In addition to research ethics approval, authors should report whether informed consent was sought, from whom consent was sought, and what consent was for.
This review aims at updating the results of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) in mild heart failure patients, and investigating whether CRT can prevent or reverse heart failure progression in an earlier stage.
Randomized controlled trials of CRT in patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class I or II heart failure were identified. The effects of CRT on worsening heart failure hospitalization, all-cause mortality, and overall adverse events were meta-analyzed, and the effects of CRT on left ventricular (LV) were systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed.
Eight studies were identified with a total of 4,302 patients. CRT was associated with a substantial improvement in LV end-systolic volume (WMD −39, 95%CI −41.56 to −36.45). CRT also had a marked effect in reducing new hospitalizations for worsening heart failure by 31% (RR 0.69, 95%CI 0.60 to 0.79). In addition, CRT significantly decreased all-cause mortality by 21% (RR 0.79, 95%CI 0.67 to 0.93). However, complications in patients with CRT increased by 74% (RR 1.74, 95%CI 1.44 to 2.11).
This meta-analysis suggests that CRT could improve the prognosis in patients with mild heart failure and ventricular dyssynchrony, but these improvements are accompanied by more adverse events. Since most patients in the included trials had received ICD therapy, our analysis suggests that CRT could offer an additional benefit.
Heart failure; Cardiac resynchronization therapy; Meta-analysis
Objective To assess the impact of the 2004 extension of the CONSORT guidelines on the reporting and methodological quality of cluster randomised trials.
Design Methodological review of 300 randomly sampled cluster randomised trials. Two reviewers independently abstracted 14 criteria related to quality of reporting and four methodological criteria specific to cluster randomised trials. We compared manuscripts published before CONSORT (2000-4) with those published after CONSORT (2005-8). We also investigated differences by journal impact factor, type of journal, and trial setting.
Data sources A validated Medline search strategy.
Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Cluster randomised trials published in English language journals, 2000-8.
Results There were significant improvements in five of 14 reporting criteria: identification as cluster randomised; justification for cluster randomisation; reporting whether outcome assessments were blind; reporting the number of clusters randomised; and reporting the number of clusters lost to follow-up. No significant improvements were found in adherence to methodological criteria. Trials conducted in clinical rather than non-clinical settings and studies published in medical journals with higher impact factor or general medical journals were more likely to adhere to recommended reporting and methodological criteria overall, but there was no evidence that improvements after publication of the CONSORT extension for cluster trials were more likely in trials conducted in clinical settings nor in trials published in either general medical journals or in higher impact factor journals.
Conclusion The quality of reporting of cluster randomised trials improved in only a few aspects since the publication of the extension of CONSORT for cluster randomised trials, and no improvements at all were observed in essential methodological features. Overall, the adherence to reporting and methodological guidelines for cluster randomised trials remains suboptimal, and further efforts are needed to improve both reporting and methodology.
The extended Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement for Abstracts was developed to improve the quality of reports of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) because readers often base their assessment of a trial solely on the abstract. To date, few data exist regarding whether it has achieved this goal. We evaluated the extent of adherence to the CONSORT for Abstract statement for quality of reports on RCT abstracts by four high-impact general medical journals.
A descriptive analysis of published RCT abstracts in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), The Lancet, The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in the year 2010 was conducted by two reviewers, independently extracting data from a MEDLINE/PubMed search.
We identified 271 potential RCT abstracts meeting our inclusion criteria. More than half of the abstracts identified the study as randomized in the title (58.7%; 159/271), reported the specific objective/hypothesis (72.7%; 197/271), described participant eligibility criteria with settings for data collection (60.9%; 165/271), detailed the interventions for both groups (90.8%; 246/271), and clearly defined the primary outcome (94.8%; 257/271). However, the methodological quality domains were inadequately reported: allocation concealment (11.8%; 32/271) and details of blinding (21.0%; 57/271). Reporting the primary outcome results for each group was done in 84.1% (228/271). Almost all of the abstracts reported trial registration (99.3%; 269/271), whereas reports of funding and of harm or side effects from the interventions were found in only 47.6% (129/271) and 42.8% (116/271) of the abstracts, respectively.
These findings show inconsistencies and non-adherence to the CONSORT for abstract guidelines, especially in the methodological quality domains. Improvements in the quality of RCT reports can be expected by adhering to existing standards and guidelines as expressed by the CONSORT group.
Randomized controlled trials; CONSORT for abstracts; Quality of reports; General medical journals
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs) are a novel type of direct repeat found in a wide range of bacteria and archaea. CRISPRs are beginning to attract attention because of their proposed mechanism; that is, defending their hosts against invading extrachromosomal elements such as viruses. Existing repeat detection tools do a poor job of identifying CRISPRs due to the presence of unique spacer sequences separating the repeats. In this study, a new tool, CRT, is introduced that rapidly and accurately identifies CRISPRs in large DNA strings, such as genomes and metagenomes.
CRT was compared to CRISPR detection tools, Patscan and Pilercr. In terms of correctness, CRT was shown to be very reliable, demonstrating significant improvements over Patscan for measures precision, recall and quality. When compared to Pilercr, CRT showed improved performance for recall and quality. In terms of speed, CRT proved to be a huge improvement over Patscan. Both CRT and Pilercr were comparable in speed, however CRT was faster for genomes containing large numbers of repeats.
In this paper a new tool was introduced for the automatic detection of CRISPR elements. This tool, CRT, showed some important improvements over current techniques for CRISPR identification. CRT's approach to detecting repetitive sequences is straightforward. It uses a simple sequential scan of a DNA sequence and detects repeats directly without any major conversion or preprocessing of the input. This leads to a program that is easy to describe and understand; yet it is very accurate, fast and memory efficient, being O(n) in space and O(nm/l) in time.
Search filters or hedges play an important role in evidence-based medicine but their development depends on the availability of a "gold standard" – a reference standard against which to establish the performance of the filter. We demonstrate the feasibility of using relative recall of included studies from multiple systematic reviews to validate methodological search filters as an alternative to validation against a gold standard formed through hand searching.
We identified 105 Cochrane reviews that used the Highly Sensitive Search Strategy (HSSS), included randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials, and reported their included studies. We measured the ability of two published and one novel variant of the HSSS to retrieve the MEDLINE-index studies included in these reviews.
The systematic reviews were comprehensive in their searches. 72% of included primary studies were indexed in MEDLINE. Relative recall of the three strategies ranged from .98 to .91 across all reviews and more comprehensive strategies showed higher recall.
An approach using relative recall instead of a hand searching gold standard proved feasible and produced recall figures that were congruent with previously published figures for the HSSS. This technique would permit validation of a methodological filter using a collection of approximately 100 studies of the chosen design drawn from the included studies of multiple systematic reviews that used comprehensive search strategies.
The Well London program used community engagement, complemented by changes to the physical and social neighborhood environment, to improve physical activity levels, healthy eating, and mental wellbeing in the most deprived communities in London. The effectiveness of Well London is being evaluated in a pair-matched cluster randomized trial (CRT). The baseline survey data are reported here.
The CRT involved 20 matched pairs of intervention and control communities (defined as UK census lower super output areas (LSOAs); ranked in the 11% most deprived LSOAs in London by the English Indices of Multiple Deprivation) across 20 London boroughs. The primary trial outcomes, sociodemographic information, and environmental neighbourhood characteristics were assessed in three quantitative components within the Well London CRT at baseline: a cross-sectional, interviewer-administered adult household survey; a self-completed, school-based adolescent questionnaire; a fieldworker completed neighborhood environmental audit. Baseline data collection occurred in 2008. Physical activity, healthy eating, and mental wellbeing were assessed using standardized, validated questionnaire tools. Multiple imputation was used to account for missing data in the outcomes and other variables in the adult and adolescent surveys.
There were 4,107 adults and 1,214 adolescent respondents in the baseline surveys. The intervention and control areas were broadly comparable with respect to the primary outcomes and key sociodemographic characteristics. The environmental characteristics of the intervention and control neighborhoods were broadly similar. There was greater between-cluster variation in the primary outcomes in the adult population compared to the adolescent population. Levels of healthy eating, smoking, and self-reported anxiety/depression were similar in the Well London adult population and the national Health Survey for England. Levels of physical activity were higher in the Well London adult population but this is likely to be due to the different measurement tools used in the two surveys.
Randomization of social interventions such as Well London is acceptable and feasible and in this study the intervention and control arms are well-balanced with respect to the primary outcomes and key sociodemographic characteristics. The matched design has improved the statistical efficiency of the study amongst adults but less so amongst adolescents. Follow-up data collection will be completed 2012.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN68175121
Cluster randomized trial; Community engagement; Health promotion; Physical activity; Healthy eating; Mental wellbeing; Social determinants
The purpose of this research is to develop and evaluate methods for conducting pragmatic cluster randomized trials in a primary care electronic database. The proposal describes one application, in a less frequent chronic condition of public health importance, secondary prevention of stroke. A related protocol in antibiotic prescribing was reported previously.
The study aims to implement a cluster randomized trial (CRT) using the electronic patient records of the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) as a sampling frame and data source. The specific objective of the trial is to evaluate the effectiveness of a computer-delivered intervention at enhancing the delivery of stroke secondary prevention in primary care. GPRD family practices will be allocated to the intervention or usual care. The intervention promotes the use of electronic prompts to support adherence with the recommendations of the UK Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party and NICE guidelines for the secondary prevention of stroke in primary care. Primary outcome measure will be the difference in systolic blood pressure between intervention and control trial arms at 12-month follow-up. Secondary outcomes will be differences in serum cholesterol, prescribing of antihypertensive drugs, statins, and antiplatelet therapy. The intervention will continue for 12 months. Information on the utilization of the decision-support tools will also be analyzed.
The CRT will investigate the effectiveness of using a computer-delivered intervention to reduce the risk of stroke recurrence following a first stroke event. The study will provide methodological guidance on the implementation of CRTs in electronic databases in primary care.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN35701810
Clinical trials; Cluster analysis; Electronic health records; Feasibility studies; Stroke; Secondary prevention
It is generally believed that exhaustive searches of bibliographic databases are needed for systematic reviews of health care interventions. The CENTRAL database of controlled trials (RCTs) has been built up by exhaustive searching. The CONSORT statement aims to encourage better reporting, and hence indexing, of RCTs. Our aim was to assess whether developments in the CENTRAL database, and the CONSORT statement, mean that a simplified RCT search strategy for identifying RCTs now suffices for systematic reviews of health care interventions.
RCTs used in the Cochrane reviews were identified. A brief RCT search strategy (BRSS), consisting of a search of CENTRAL, and then for variants of the word random across all fields (random$.af.) in MEDLINE and EMBASE, was devised and run. Any trials included in the meta-analyses, but missed by the BRSS, were identified. The meta-analyses were then re-run, with and without the missed RCTs, and the differences quantified. The proportion of trials with variants of the word random in the title or abstract was calculated for each year. The number of RCTs retrieved by searching with "random$.af." was compared to the highly sensitive search strategy (HSSS).
The BRSS had a sensitivity of 94%. It found all journal RCTs in 47 of the 57 reviews. The missing RCTs made some significant differences to a small proportion of the total outcomes in only five reviews, but no important differences in conclusions resulted. In the post-CONSORT years, 1997–2003, the percentage of RCTs with random in the title or abstract was 85%, a mean increase of 17% compared to the seven years pre-CONSORT (95% CI, 8.3% to 25.9%). The search using random$.af. reduced the MEDLINE retrieval by 84%, compared to the HSSS, thereby reducing the workload of checking retrievals.
A brief RCT search strategy is now sufficient to locate RCTs for systematic reviews in most cases. Exhaustive searching is no longer cost-effective, because in effect it has already been done for CENTRAL.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is an established treatment in heart failure patients. However, a large proportion of patients remain nonresponsive to this pacing strategy. Left ventricular (LV) lead position is one of the main determinants of response to CRT. This study aims to clarify whether multimodality imaging guided LV lead placement improves clinical outcome after CRT.
The ImagingCRT study is a prospective, randomized, patient- and assessor-blinded, two-armed trial. The study is designed to investigate the effect of imaging guided left ventricular lead positioning on a clinical composite primary endpoint comprising all-cause mortality, hospitalization for heart failure, or unchanged or worsened functional capacity (no improvement in New York Heart Association class and <10% improvement in six-minute-walk test). Imaging guided LV lead positioning is targeted to the latest activated non-scarred myocardial region by speckle tracking echocardiography, single-photon emission computed tomography, and cardiac computed tomography. Secondary endpoints include changes in LV dimensions, ejection fraction and dyssynchrony. A total of 192 patients are included in the study.
Despite tremendous advances in knowledge with CRT, the proportion of patients not responding to this treatment has remained stable since the introduction of CRT. ImagingCRT is a prospective, randomized study assessing the clinical and echocardiographic effect of multimodality imaging guided LV lead placement in CRT. The results are expected to make an important contribution in the pursuit of increasing response rate to CRT.
Clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT01323686. The trial was registered March 25, 2011 and the first study subject was randomized April 11, 2011.
Heart failure; Cardiac resynchronization therapy; Cardiac imaging; Left ventricular lead placement
Electronic medical records (EMRs) have the potential to facilitate the design of large cluster-randomized trials (CRTs).
To describe the design of a CRT of clinical decision support to improve diabetes care and outcomes.
In the Diabetes Improvement Group-Intervention Trial (DIG-IT), we identified and balanced preassignment characteristics of 12,675 diabetic patients cared for by 147 physicians in 24 practices of 2 systems using the same vendor’s EMR. EMR-facilitated disease management was system A’s experimental intervention; system B interventions involved patient empowerment, with or without disease management. For our sample, we: (1) identified characteristics associated with response to interventions or outcomes; (2) summarized feasible partitions of 10 system A practices (2 groups) and 14 system B practices (3 groups) using intra-cluster correlation coefficients (ICCs) and standardized differences; (3) selected (blinded) partitions to effectively balance the characteristics; and (4) randomly assigned groups of practices to interventions.
In System A, 4,306 patients, were assigned to 2 groups of practices; 8,369 patients in system B were assigned to 3 groups of practices. Nearly all baseline outcome variables and covariates were well-balanced, including several not included in the initial design. DIG-IT’s balance was superior to alternative partitions based on volume, geography or demographics alone.
EMRs facilitated rigorous CRT design by identifying large numbers of patients with diabetes and enabling fair comparisons through preassignment balancing of practice sites. Our methods can be replicated in other settings and for other conditions, enhancing the power of other translational investigations.
cluster-randomized trial; study design; health information technology; clinical decision support; diabetes mellitus
It was still unclear whether the methodological reporting quality of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in major hepato-gastroenterology journals improved after the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement was revised in 2001.
RCTs in five major hepato-gastroenterology journals published in 1998 or 2008 were retrieved from MEDLINE using a high sensitivity search method and their reporting quality of methodological details were evaluated based on the CONSORT Statement and Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of interventions. Changes of the methodological reporting quality between 2008 and 1998 were calculated by risk ratios with 95% confidence intervals.
A total of 107 RCTs published in 2008 and 99 RCTs published in 1998 were found. Compared to those in 1998, the proportion of RCTs that reported sequence generation (RR, 5.70; 95%CI 3.11-10.42), allocation concealment (RR, 4.08; 95%CI 2.25-7.39), sample size calculation (RR, 3.83; 95%CI 2.10-6.98), incomplete outecome data addressed (RR, 1.81; 95%CI, 1.03-3.17), intention-to-treat analyses (RR, 3.04; 95%CI 1.72-5.39) increased in 2008. Blinding and intent-to-treat analysis were reported better in multi-center trials than in single-center trials. The reporting of allocation concealment and blinding were better in industry-sponsored trials than in public-funded trials. Compared with historical studies, the methodological reporting quality improved with time.
Although the reporting of several important methodological aspects improved in 2008 compared with those published in 1998, which may indicate the researchers had increased awareness of and compliance with the revised CONSORT statement, some items were still reported badly. There is much room for future improvement.
Attrition, which leads to missing data, is a common problem in cluster randomized trials (CRTs), where groups of patients rather than individuals are randomized. Standard multiple imputation (MI) strategies may not be appropriate to impute missing data from CRTs since they assume independent data. In this paper, under the assumption of missing completely at random and covariate dependent missing, we compared six MI strategies which account for the intra-cluster correlation for missing binary outcomes in CRTs with the standard imputation strategies and complete case analysis approach using a simulation study.
We considered three within-cluster and three across-cluster MI strategies for missing binary outcomes in CRTs. The three within-cluster MI strategies are logistic regression method, propensity score method, and Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method, which apply standard MI strategies within each cluster. The three across-cluster MI strategies are propensity score method, random-effects (RE) logistic regression approach, and logistic regression with cluster as a fixed effect. Based on the community hypertension assessment trial (CHAT) which has complete data, we designed a simulation study to investigate the performance of above MI strategies.
The estimated treatment effect and its 95% confidence interval (CI) from generalized estimating equations (GEE) model based on the CHAT complete dataset are 1.14 (0.76 1.70). When 30% of binary outcome are missing completely at random, a simulation study shows that the estimated treatment effects and the corresponding 95% CIs from GEE model are 1.15 (0.76 1.75) if complete case analysis is used, 1.12 (0.72 1.73) if within-cluster MCMC method is used, 1.21 (0.80 1.81) if across-cluster RE logistic regression is used, and 1.16 (0.82 1.64) if standard logistic regression which does not account for clustering is used.
When the percentage of missing data is low or intra-cluster correlation coefficient is small, different approaches for handling missing binary outcome data generate quite similar results. When the percentage of missing data is large, standard MI strategies, which do not take into account the intra-cluster correlation, underestimate the variance of the treatment effect. Within-cluster and across-cluster MI strategies (except for random-effects logistic regression MI strategy), which take the intra-cluster correlation into account, seem to be more appropriate to handle the missing outcome from CRTs. Under the same imputation strategy and percentage of missingness, the estimates of the treatment effect from GEE and RE logistic regression models are similar.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the CRT is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the first of the questions posed, namely, who is the research subject in a CRT in health research? The identification of human research subjects is logically prior to the application of protections as set out in research ethics and regulation. Aspects of CRT design, including the fact that in a single study the units of randomization, experimentation, and observation may differ, complicate the identification of human research subjects. But the proper identification of human research subjects is important if they are to be protected from harm and exploitation, and if research ethics committees are to review CRTs efficiently.
We examine the research ethics literature and international regulations to identify the core features of human research subjects, and then unify these features under a single, comprehensive definition of human research subject. We define a human research subject as any person whose interests may be compromised as a result of interventions in a research study. Individuals are only human research subjects in CRTs if: (1) they are directly intervened upon by investigators; (2) they interact with investigators; (3) they are deliberately intervened upon via a manipulation of their environment that may compromise their interests; or (4) their identifiable private information is used to generate data. Individuals who are indirectly affected by CRT study interventions, including patients of healthcare providers participating in knowledge translation CRTs, are not human research subjects unless at least one of these conditions is met.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the CRT is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the sixth of the questions posed, namely, what is the role and authority of gatekeepers in CRTs in health research? ‘Gatekeepers’ are individuals or bodies that represent the interests of cluster members, clusters, or organizations. The need for gatekeepers arose in response to the difficulties in obtaining informed consent because of cluster randomization, cluster-level interventions, and cluster size. In this paper, we call for a more restrictive understanding of the role and authority of gatekeepers.
Previous papers in this series have provided solutions to the challenges posed by informed consent in CRTs without the need to invoke gatekeepers. We considered that consent to randomization is not required when cluster members are approached for consent at the earliest opportunity and before any study interventions or data-collection procedures have started. Further, when cluster-level interventions or cluster size means that obtaining informed consent is not possible, a waiver of consent may be appropriate. In this paper, we suggest that the role of gatekeepers in protecting individual interests in CRTs should be limited. Generally, gatekeepers do not have the authority to provide proxy consent for cluster members. When a municipality or other community has a legitimate political authority that is empowered to make such decisions, cluster permission may be appropriate; however, gatekeepers may usefully protect cluster interests in other ways. Cluster consultation may ensure that the CRT addresses local health needs, and is conducted in accord with local values and customs. Gatekeepers may also play an important role in protecting the interests of organizations, such as hospitals, nursing homes, general practices, and schools. In these settings, permission to access the organization relies on resource implications and adherence to institutional policies.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the second of the questions posed, namely, from whom, when, and how must informed consent be obtained in CRTs in health research? The ethical principle of respect for persons implies that researchers are generally obligated to obtain the informed consent of research subjects. Aspects of CRT design, including cluster randomization, cluster level interventions, and cluster size, present challenges to obtaining informed consent. Here we address five questions related to consent and CRTs: How can a study proceed if informed consent is not possible? Is consent to randomization always required? What information must be disclosed to potential subjects if their cluster has already been randomized? Is passive consent a valid substitute for informed consent? Do health professionals have a moral obligation to participate as subjects in CRTs designed to improve professional practice?
We set out a framework based on the moral foundations of informed consent and international regulatory provisions to address each of these questions. First, when informed consent is not possible, a study may proceed if a research ethics committee is satisfied that conditions for a waiver of consent are satisfied. Second, informed consent to randomization may not be required if it is not possible to approach subjects at the time of randomization. Third, when potential subjects are approached after cluster randomization, they must be provided with a detailed description of the interventions in the trial arm to which their cluster has been randomized; detailed information on interventions in other trial arms need not be provided. Fourth, while passive consent may serve a variety of practical ends, it is not a substitute for valid informed consent. Fifth, while health professionals may have a moral obligation to participate as subjects in research, this does not diminish the necessity of informed consent to study participation.
The combined therapeutic impact of atrial overdrive pacing (AOP) and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) on central sleep apnoea (CSA) in chronic heart failure (CHF) so far has not been investigated. We aimed to evaluate the effect of CRT alone and CRT + AOP on CSA in CHF patients and to compare the influence of CRT on CHF between CSA positive and CSA negative patients.
Methods and results
Thirty patients with CRT indication underwent full night polysomnography, echocardiography, exercise testing, and neurohumoral evaluation before and 3 months after CRT implantation. In CSA positive patients (60%), two additional sleep studies were conducted after 3 months of CRT, with CRT alone or CRT + AOP, in random order. Cardiac resynchronization therapy resulted in significant improvements of NYHA class, left ventricular ejection fraction, N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide, VO2max, and quality of life irrespective of the presence of CSA. Cardiac resynchronization therapy also reduced the central apnoea–hypopnoea index (AHI) (33.6 ± 14.3 vs. 23.8 ± 16.9 h−1; P < 0.01) and central apnoea index (17.3 ± 14.1 vs. 10.9 ± 13.9 h−1; P < 0.01) without altering sleep stages. Cardiac resynchronization therapy with atrial overdrive pacing resulted in a small but significant additional decrease of the central AHI (23.8 ± 16.9 vs. 21.5 ± 16.9 h−1; P < 0.01).
In this study, CRT significantly improved CSA without altering sleep stages. Cardiac resynchronization therapy with atrial overdrive pacing resulted in a significant but minor additional improvement of CSA. Positive effects of CRT were irrespective of the presence of CSA.
Atrial overdrive pacing; Cardiac resynchronization therapy; Central sleep apnoea; Cheyne–Stokes respiration; Chronic heart failure
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a relatively newly recognised but common long-term condition affecting 5 to 10% of the population. Effective management of CKD, with emphasis on strict blood pressure (BP) control, reduces cardiovascular risk and slows the progression of CKD. There is currently an unprecedented rise in referral to specialist renal services, which are often located in tertiary centres, inconvenient for patients, and wasteful of resources. National and international CKD guidelines include quality targets for primary care. However, there have been no rigorous evaluations of strategies to implement these guidelines. This study aims to test whether quality improvement interventions improve primary care management of elevated BP in CKD, reduce cardiovascular risk, and slow renal disease progression
Cluster randomised controlled trial (CRT)
This three-armed CRT compares two well-established quality improvement interventions with usual practice. The two interventions comprise: provision of clinical practice guidelines with prompts and audit-based education.
The study population will be all individuals with CKD from general practices in eight localities across England. Randomisation will take place at the level of the general practices. The intended sample (three arms of 25 practices) powers the study to detect a 3 mmHg difference in systolic BP between the different quality improvement interventions. An additional 10 practices per arm will receive a questionnaire to measure any change in confidence in managing CKD. Follow up will take place over two years. Outcomes will be measured using anonymised routinely collected data extracted from practice computer systems. Our primary outcome measure will be reduction of systolic BP in people with CKD and hypertension at two years. Secondary outcomes will include biomedical outcomes and markers of quality, including practitioner confidence in managing CKD.
A small group of practices (n = 4) will take part in an in-depth process evaluation. We will use time series data to examine the natural history of CKD in the community. Finally, we will conduct an economic evaluation based on a comparison of the cost effectiveness of each intervention.
Clinical Trials Registration
ISRCTN56023731. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier.
First described a decade ago, cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) has recently become a proven therapeutic strategy for refractory heart failure. Large clinical trials have shown a reduction in both morbidity and mortality in patients treated with CRT. Initial patient selection has relied mainly on electrocardiographic criteria, which allows identification of only 70% of responders. Accordingly, echocardiographic criteria were developed to identify mechanical dyssynchrony in an effort to improve patient selection. Multiple echocardiographic criteria have since been proposed, with no consensus as to which parameter better predicts CRT response. Although comparison studies using different criteria are underway, current evaluation of dyssynchrony should probably use an integrated multiparameter approach. The objective of the present article was to review the role of echocardiography in the evaluation of cardiac dyssynchrony in clinical practice.
Cardiac resynchronization; Congestive heart failure; Echocardiography; Pacemakers
Ethical consideration is a basic requirement for design of randomized clinical trials. The purpose of this study was to assess whether reports of Iranian dental clinical trials complied with the requirements of the ethical principles of human research.
In this retrospective observational study electronic search was performed to identify all dental clinical trials published between 2001 and 2011. Each trial report was assessed for inclusion of a statement that 17 items about research ethics.
Totally 242 papers were identified, of which 15.3%, stated that ethical approval had been obtained and 50.4% of the trial reports indicated that informed consent had been obtained. The mean ethical score for the mentioned studies was 7/68 out of 17.
Most Iranian dental clinical trial reports failed to consider important ethical principles. The reporting of the ethical issues associated with these trials could be improved further not only by the instructions to authors, but also by Journal editors refusing to publish trials that do not comply.
Ethics; Clinical Trials; Journal; Dental; Iran