Revisiting Sample Size: Are Big Trials the Answer?
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The superiority of the evidence generated in randomized controlled trials over observational data is not only conditional to randomization. Randomized controlled trials require proper design and implementation to provide a reliable effect estimate. Adequate random sequence generation, allocation implementation, analyses based on the intention-to-treat principle, and sufficient power are crucial to the quality of a randomized controlled trial. Power, or the probability of the trial to detect a difference when a real difference between treatments exists, strongly depends on sample size. The quality of orthopaedic randomized controlled trials is frequently threatened by a limited sample size. This paper reviews basic concepts and pitfalls in sample-size estimation and focuses on the importance of large trials in the generation of valid evidence.
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