Sample size re-estimation in cluster randomization trials

Stat Med. 2002 May 30;21(10):1337-50. doi: 10.1002/sim.1121.


Cluster randomization trials in which families are the unit of allocation are commonly adopted for the evaluation of disease prevention interventions. Sample size estimation for cluster randomization trials depends on parameters that quantify the variability within and between clusters and the variability in cluster size. Accurate advance estimates of these nuisance parameters may be difficult to obtain and misspecification may lead to an underpowered study. Since families are typically recruited over time, we propose using a portion of the data to estimate the nuisance parameters and to re-estimate sample size based on the estimates. This extends the standard internal pilot study methods to the setting of cluster randomization trials. The effect of this design on the power, significance level and sample size is analysed via simulation and is shown to provide a flexible and practical approach to cluster randomization trials.

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Sample Size