Clinical equipoise in sleep surgery: investigating clinical trial targets
Objective. Surgical approaches for alleviating snoring and/or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have been questioned because of a lack of evidence from high-quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs). An ethical requirement for RCTs is that they must test questions where community equipoise (ie, uncertainty) exists as to the correct treatment. We aimed to measure perceived importance, community equipoise, and willingness to enroll patients in 5 potential trial targets among members of the Australian Society for Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (ASOHNS). Study Design, Setting, and Subjects. All ASOHNS members were surveyed using a multistage mail, email, Internet, and phone-based questionnaire. Methods. Equipoise was measured for each of the scenarios using a bidirectional linear scale comparing 2 treatments. Responses were categorized into 1 of 3 groups: (A) preferred treatment 1, (B) completely undecided, and (C) preferred treatment 2. The resulting proportions are called equipoise ratios: A:B:C. Using tick boxes, the authors queried the general clinical importance and willingness to enroll patients for all scenarios. Results. A total of 167 of 313 surgeons responded (53.4%). Three of the 5 trial scenarios exhibited evidence of community equipoise, but 2 scenarios, radiofrequency ablation plus uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) versus UPPP alone and upper-airway reconstruction versus mandibular advancement splint (MAS), did not have strong support for enrolling patients. Informal feedback indicates one of these may be feasible in a smaller number of specifically trained surgeons. Conclusion. We suggest 2 potential RCT targets: septoplasty and turbinate reduction versus conservative measures for snoring and airway reconstruction versus MAS for OSA, where importance, clinical equipoise, and willingness all exist.