Balancing after randomization in orthopedic trials: Are we even or even paying attention?

David C. Landy, Josh Joiner, Caitlin E. Conley, Austin V. Stone, Cale A. Jacobs, Arnold J. Stromberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A cornerstone of evidence-based medicine is the randomized controlled trial (RCT). While randomization seeks to balance study groups on potential confounders, this is not always achieved. Especially in orthopedic research where RCTs are often of modest size, imbalances can exist and may be a significant issue. We sought to describe whether orthopedic RCTs assess balancing between study groups, use statistical hypothesis testing to compare baseline characteristics between groups, and have balanced baseline characteristics between groups. All RCTs from four leading orthopedic journals published between July 2019 and June 2020 were identified and those reporting original trial results reviewed for discussion of balancing, use of statistical significance testing to compare baseline characteristics, and patient reported outcome measures (PROMs) at baseline. Standardized mean differences of baseline PROMs were calculated to assess balancing. Of 86 orthopedic RCTs reviewed, 59 (69%) assessed balancing and 50 (58%) used statistical significance testing to compare baseline characteristics. Of 74 articles specifying a primary outcome, 33 (45%) used a PROM with 23 (70%) reporting baseline PROM values. Of these articles, 17 (74%) had a difference of less than 0.25 standard deviations (SDs) between groups, 4 (17%) had a difference of between 0.25 and 0.50 SDs, and 3 (13%) had a difference greater than 0.5 SDs. Orthopedic RCTs usually assess balancing after randomization though there is room for improvement with over half of articles using hypothesis testing to assess baseline differences as opposed to a measure of the magnitude of the difference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1582-1586
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • clinical outcomes
  • epidemiology
  • statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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