Randomized controlled trials of surgical interventions

Ann Surg. 2010 Mar;251(3):409-16. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181cf863d.


Background and objectives: Surgical trials pose many methodological challenges often not present in trials of medical interventions. If not properly accounted for, these challenges may introduce significant biases and threaten the validity of the results.

Methods: We systematically reviewed the significance of randomized controlled trials in the evaluation of surgical interventions, discussed the methodological challenges encountered in designing and conducting randomized controlled trials of surgical treatments, and proposed possible solutions to overcome these challenges.

Conclusions: Many barriers and issues of surgical trials affecting internal validity can be overcome with proper methodology, and in most cases these issues do not restrict their conduct. Researchers should consider their research question carefully and design a surgical trial that contains features appropriate for the question. In doing so, they must ensure that the trial is valid, feasible, and affordable--a difficult feat, but one well worth the challenge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative* / standards