Sham surgery controls in Parkinson's disease clinical trials: views of participants

Mov Disord. 2012 Sep 15;27(11):1461-5. doi: 10.1002/mds.25155. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Background: Sham surgery controls are increasingly used in neurosurgical clinical trials in Parkinson's disease (PD) but remain controversial. We interviewed participants of such trials, specifically examining their understanding and attitudes regarding sham surgery.

Methods: We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews with participants of 3 sham surgery-controlled trials for PD, focusing on their understanding of sham design, their reactions to it, its impact on decision making, and their understanding of posttrial availability of the experimental intervention and its impact on decisions to participate.

Results: All subjects (n = 90) understood the 2-arm design; most (86%) described the procedural differences between the arms accurately. Ninety-two percent referred to scientific or regulatory reasons as rationales for the sham control, with 62% specifically referring to the placebo effect. Ninety-one percent said posttrial availability of the experimental intervention had a strong (48%) or some (43%) influence on their decision to participate, but only 68% understood the conditions for posttrial availability.

Conclusions: Most subjects in sham surgery-controlled PD trials comprehend the sham surgery design and its rationale. Although there is room for improvement, most subjects of sham surgery trials appear to be adequately informed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Parkinson Disease / surgery*
  • Research Design
  • Surveys and Questionnaires