Internal pilot studies for estimating sample size

Stat Med. 1994 Dec 15-30;13(23-24):2455-63. doi: 10.1002/sim.4780132309.


We develop the idea of using data from the first 'few' patients entered in a clinical trial to estimate the final trial size needed to have specified power for rejecting H0 in favour of H1 if a real difference exists. When comparing means derived from Normally distributed data, there is no important effect on test size, power or expected trial size, provided that a minimum of about 20 degrees of freedom are used to estimate residual variance. Relative advantages and disadvantages of using larger internal pilot studies are presented. These revolve around crude expectations of the final study size, recruitment rate, duration of follow-up and practical constraints on the ability to prevent the circulation of unblinded randomization codes to investigators and those involved in editing and checking data.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy
  • Pilot Projects*
  • Sample Size*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome