UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The randomization-induced risk of a trial failing to attain its target power: assessment and mitigation Wong, Hubert; Ouyang, Yongdong; Karim, Mohammad Ehsanul


Health researchers are familiar with the concept of trial power, a number that prior to the start of a trial is intended to describe the probability that the results of the trial will correctly conclude that the intervention has an effect. Trial power, as calculated using standard software, is an expected power that arises from averaging hypothetical trial results over all possible treatment allocations that could be generated by the randomization algorithm. However, in the trial that ultimately is conducted, only one treatment allocation will occur, and the corresponding attained power (conditional on the allocation that occurred) is not guaranteed to be equal to the expected power and may be substantially lower. We provide examples illustrating this issue, discuss some circumstances when this issue is a concern, define and advocate the examination of the pre-randomization power distribution for evaluating the risk of obtaining unacceptably low attained power, and suggest the use of randomization restrictions to reduce this risk. In trials that randomize only a modest number of units, we recommend that trial designers evaluate the risk of getting low attained power and, if warranted, modify the randomization algorithm to reduce this risk.

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