Registry-Based Randomized Controlled Trials: A New Paradigm for Surgical Research

Samuel J. Zolin, Clayton C. Petro, Ajita S. Prabhu, Aldo Fafaj, Jonah D. Thomas, Charlotte M. Horne, Luciano Tastaldi, Hemasat Alkhatib, David M. Krpata, Steven Rosenblatt, Michael J. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the gold standard to establish evidence for surgical practice but can be hindered by high costs, complexity, and time requirements. Recently, observational registries have been leveraged as platforms for clinical trials to address these limitations, though few registry-based surgical RCTs have been conducted. Here, we present our group's approach to surgical registry-based RCTs and early results. Materials and methods: To facilitate these trials, we focused on registry integration into surgeons' workflows, routine collection of patient-reported outcomes at clinic visits, and pragmatic trial design featuring broad inclusion criteria and standard of care follow-up. These features maximize generalizability and facilitate follow-up by minimizing visits and tests outside of normal practice. Results: Since 2017, our group has completed enrollment in 4 registry-based RCTs with another 5 trials ongoing. Of these, 4 trials have been multicenter. Over 1000 patients have been enrolled in these studies, with follow-up rates of 90% or greater. Most of these trials are on track to complete enrollment in approximately 2 y from their start date. Beyond salary support, resource utilization is low. None of our trials has been terminated due to lack of resources or futility. Conclusions: Registry-based RCTs allow for efficient conduct of pragmatic surgical trials. Thoughtful study design, registry integration into surgeons' routines, and a team culture embracing research are paramount. We believe registry-based trials are the future of affordable, high-level, prospective surgical research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-435
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


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