Kidney Function Endpoints in Kidney Transplant Trials: A Struggle for Power
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Kidney function endpoints are commonly used in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in kidney transplantation (KTx). We conducted this study to estimate the proportion of ongoing RCTs with kidney function endpoints in KTx where the proposed sample size is large enough to detect meaningful differences in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) with adequate statistical power. RCTs were retrieved using the key word "kidney transplantation" from the National Institute of Health online clinical trial registry. Included trials had at least one measure of kidney function tracked for at least 1 month after transplant. We determined the proportion of two-arm parallel trials that had sufficient sample sizes to detect a minimum 5, 7.5 and 10 mL/min difference in GFR between arms. Fifty RCTs met inclusion criteria. Only 7% of the trials were above a sample size of 562, the number needed to detect a minimum 5 mL/min difference between the groups should one exist (assumptions: α = 0.05; power = 80%, 10% loss to follow-up, common standard deviation of 20 mL/min). The result increased modestly to 36% of trials when a minimum 10 mL/min difference was considered. Only a minority of ongoing trials have adequate statistical power to detect between-group differences in kidney function using conventional sample size estimating parameters. For this reason, some potentially effective interventions which ultimately could benefit patients may be abandoned from future assessment.
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