"Flogging dead horses" : evaluating when have clinical trials achieved sufficiency and stability? A case study in cardiac rehabilitation

Dent, L., Taylor, R. , Jolly, K. and Raftery, J. (2011) "Flogging dead horses" : evaluating when have clinical trials achieved sufficiency and stability? A case study in cardiac rehabilitation. Trials, 12, 83. (doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-12-83) (PMID:21418648) (PMCID:PMC3073877)

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Background Most systematic reviews conclude that another clinical trial is needed. Measures of sufficiency and stability may indicate whether this is true. Objectives: To show how evidence accumulated on centre-based versus home-based cardiac rehabilitation, including estimates of sufficiency and stability Methods Systematic reviews of clinical trials of home versus centre-based cardiac rehabilitation were used to develop a cumulative meta-analysis over time. We calculated the standardised mean difference (SMD) in effect, confidence intervals and indicators of sufficiency and stability. Sufficiency refers to whether the meta-analytic database adequately demonstrates that an intervention works - is statistically superior to another. It does this by assessing the number of studies with null results that would be required to make the meta-analytic effect non-statistically significant. Stability refers to whether the direction and size of the effect is stable as new studies are added to the meta-analysis. Results The standardised mean effect difference reduced over fourteen comparisons from a non-significant difference favouring home-based cardiac rehabilitation to a very small difference favouring hospital (SMD -0.10, 95% CI -0.32 to 0.13). This difference did not reach the sufficiency threshold (failsafe ratio 0.039 < 1) but did achieve the criteria for stability (cumulative slope 0.003 < 0.005). Conclusions The evidence points to a relatively small effect difference which was stable but not sufficient in terms of the suggested thresholds. Sufficiency should arguably be based on substantive significance and decided by patients. Research on patient preferences should be the priority. Sufficiency and stability measures are useful tools that need to be tested in further case studies.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Taylor, Professor Rod
Authors: Dent, L., Taylor, R., Jolly, K., and Raftery, J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Trials
ISSN (Online):1745-6215
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2011 Dent et al.
First Published:First published in Trials 12:83
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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