The quality of the reported sample size calculations in randomized controlled trials indexed in PubMed

Hong Lee, Andy C.Y. Tse

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We examine the current quality of reporting of the sample size calculation in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in PubMed and to examine the variation in reporting across study design, study characteristics, and journal impact factor. We also reviewed the targeted sample size reported in trial registries. Methods We reviewed and analyzed all RCTs published in December 2014 with journals indexed in PubMed. The 2014 Impact Factors for the journals were used as proxies for their quality. Results Of the 451 analyzed papers, 58.1% reported an a priori sample size calculation. Nearly all papers provided the level of significance (97.7%) and desired power (96.6%), and most of the papers reported the minimum clinically important effect size (73.3%). The median (inter-quartile range) of the percentage difference of the reported and calculated sample size calculation was 0.0% (IQR − 4.6%;3.0%). The accuracy of the reported sample size was better for studies published in journals that endorsed the CONSORT statement and journals with an impact factor. A total of 98 papers had provided targeted sample size on trial registries and about two–third of these papers (n = 62) reported sample size calculation, but only 25 (40.3%) had no discrepancy with the reported number in the trial registries. Conclusions The reporting of the sample size calculation in RCTs published in PubMed-indexed journals and trial registries were poor. The CONSORT statement should be more widely endorsed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Crossover
  • Factorial
  • Protocol
  • Sample size
  • Trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'The quality of the reported sample size calculations in randomized controlled trials indexed in PubMed'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this