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Registry-based trials have emerged as a potentially cost-saving study methodology. Early estimates of cost savings, however, conflated the benefits associated with registry utilisation and those associated with other aspects of pragmatic trial designs, which might not all be as broadly applicable. In this study, we sought to build a practical tool that investigators could use across disciplines to estimate the ranges of potential cost differences associated with implementing registry-based trials versus standard clinical trials.
We built simulation Markov models to compare unique costs associated with data acquisition, cleaning, and linkage under a registry-based trial design versus a standard clinical trial. We conducted one-way, two-way, and probabilistic sensitivity analyses, varying study characteristics over broad ranges, to determine thresholds at which investigators might optimally select each trial design.
Registry-based trials were more cost effective than standard clinical trials 98.6% of the time. Data-related cost savings ranged from $4300 to $600,000 with variation in study characteristics. Cost differences were most reactive to the number of patients in a study, the number of data elements per patient available in a registry, and the speed with which research coordinators could manually abstract data. Registry incorporation resulted in cost savings when as few as 3768 independent data elements were available and when manual data abstraction took as little as 3.4 seconds per data field.
Registries offer important resources for investigators. When available, their broad incorporation may help the scientific community reduce the costs of clinical investigation. We offer here a practical tool for investigators to assess potential costs savings.
The Pediatric Heart Network Normal Echocardiogram Database Study had unanticipated challenges. We sought to describe these challenges and lessons learned to improve the design of future studies.
Challenges were divided into three categories: enrolment, echocardiographic imaging, and protocol violations. Memoranda, Core Lab reports, and adjudication logs were reviewed. A centre-level questionnaire provided information regarding local processes for data collection. Descriptive statistics were used, and chi-square tests determined differences in imaging quality.
For the 19 participating centres, challenges with enrolment included variations in Institutional Review Board definitions of “retrospective” eligibility, overestimation of non-White participants, centre categorisation of Hispanic participants that differed from National Institutes of Health definitions, and exclusion of potential participants due to missing demographic data. Institutional Review Board amendments resolved many of these challenges. There was an unanticipated burden imposed on centres due to high numbers of echocardiograms that were reviewed but failed to meet submission criteria. Additionally, image transfer software malfunctions delayed Core Lab image review and feedback. Between the early and late study periods, the proportion of unacceptable echocardiograms submitted to the Core Lab decreased (14 versus 7%, p < 0.01). Most protocol violations were from eligibility violations and inadvertent protected health information disclosure (overall 2.5%). Adjudication committee reviews led to protocol changes.
Numerous challenges encountered during the Normal Echocardiogram Database Study prolonged study enrolment. The retrospective design and flaws in image transfer software were key impediments to study completion and should be considered when designing future studies collecting echocardiographic images as a primary outcome.
The Single Ventricle Reconstruction Trial randomised neonates with hypoplastic left heart syndrome to a shunt strategy but otherwise retained standard of care. We aimed to describe centre-level practice variation at Fontan completion.
Centre-level data are reported as median or median frequency across all centres and range of medians or frequencies across centres. Classification and regression tree analysis assessed the association of centre-level factors with length of stay and percentage of patients with prolonged pleural effusion (>7 days).
The median Fontan age (14 centres, 320 patients) was 3.1 years (range from 1.7 to 3.9), and the weight-for-age z-score was −0.56 (−1.35 + 0.44). Extra-cardiac Fontans were performed in 79% (4–100%) of patients at the 13 centres performing this procedure; lateral tunnels were performed in 32% (3–100%) at the 11 centres performing it. Deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (nine centres) ranged from 6 to 100%. Major complications occurred in 17% (7–33%). The length of stay was 9.5 days (9–12); 15% (6–33%) had prolonged pleural effusion. Centres with fewer patients (<6%) with prolonged pleural effusion and fewer (<41%) complications had a shorter length of stay (<10 days; sensitivity 1.0; specificity 0.71; area under the curve 0.96). Avoiding deep hypothermic circulatory arrest and higher weight-for-age z-score were associated with a lower percentage of patients with prolonged effusions (<9.5%; sensitivity 1.0; specificity = 0.86; area under the curve 0.98).
Fontan perioperative practices varied widely among study centres. Strategies to decrease the duration of pleural effusion and minimise complications may decrease the length of stay. Further research regarding deep hypothermic circulatory arrest is needed to understand its association with prolonged pleural effusion.
While echocardiographic parameters are used to quantify ventricular function in infants with single ventricle physiology, there are few data comparing these to invasive measurements. This study correlates echocardiographic measures of diastolic function with ventricular end-diastolic pressure in infants with single ventricle physiology prior to superior cavopulmonary anastomosis.
Data from 173 patients enrolled in the Pediatric Heart Network Infant Single Ventricle enalapril trial were analysed. Those with mixed ventricular types (n = 17) and one outlier (end-diastolic pressure = 32 mmHg) were excluded from the analysis, leaving a total sample size of 155 patients. Echocardiographic measurements were correlated to end-diastolic pressure using Spearman’s test.
Median age at echocardiogram was 4.6 (range 2.5–7.4) months. Median ventricular end-diastolic pressure was 7 (range 3–19) mmHg. Median time difference between the echocardiogram and catheterisation was 0 days (range −35 to 59 days). Examining the entire cohort of 155 patients, no echocardiographic diastolic function variable correlated with ventricular end-diastolic pressure. When the analysis was limited to the 86 patients who had similar sedation for both studies, the systolic:diastolic duration ratio had a significant but weak negative correlation with end-diastolic pressure (r = −0.3, p = 0.004). The remaining echocardiographic variables did not correlate with ventricular end-diastolic pressure.
In this cohort of infants with single ventricle physiology prior to superior cavopulmonary anastomosis, most conventional echocardiographic measures of diastolic function did not correlate with ventricular end-diastolic pressure at cardiac catheterisation. These limitations should be factored into the interpretation of quantitative echo data in this patient population.
Recent years have seen an exponential increase in the variety of healthcare data captured across numerous sources. However, mechanisms to leverage these data sources to support scientific investigation have remained limited. In 2013 the Pediatric Heart Network (PHN), funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, developed the Integrated CARdiac Data and Outcomes (iCARD) Collaborative with the goals of leveraging available data sources to aid in efficiently planning and conducting PHN studies; supporting integration of PHN data with other sources to foster novel research otherwise not possible; and mentoring young investigators in these areas. This review describes lessons learned through the development of iCARD, initial efforts and scientific output, challenges, and future directions. This information can aid in the use and optimisation of data integration methodologies across other research networks and organisations.
Using existing data from clinical registries to support clinical trials and other prospective studies has the potential to improve research efficiency. However, little has been reported about staff experiences and lessons learned from implementation of this method in pediatric cardiology.
We describe the process of using existing registry data in the Pediatric Heart Network Residual Lesion Score Study, report stakeholders’ perspectives, and provide recommendations to guide future studies using this methodology.
The Residual Lesion Score Study, a 17-site prospective, observational study, piloted the use of existing local surgical registry data (collected for submission to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons-Congenital Heart Surgery Database) to supplement manual data collection. A survey regarding processes and perceptions was administered to study site and data coordinating center staff.
Survey response rate was 98% (54/55). Overall, 57% perceived that using registry data saved research staff time in the current study, and 74% perceived that it would save time in future studies; 55% noted significant upfront time in developing a methodology for extracting registry data. Survey recommendations included simplifying data extraction processes and tailoring to the needs of the study, understanding registry characteristics to maximise data quality and security, and involving all stakeholders in design and implementation processes.
Use of existing registry data was perceived to save time and promote efficiency. Consideration must be given to the upfront investment of time and resources needed. Ongoing efforts focussed on automating and centralising data management may aid in further optimising this methodology for future studies.
The Single Ventricle Reconstruction trial randomised neonates with hypoplastic left heart syndrome to a systemic-to-pulmonary-artery shunt strategy. Patients received care according to usual institutional practice. We analysed practice variation at the Stage II surgery to attempt to identify areas for decreased variation and process control improvement.
Prospectively collected data were available in the Single Ventricle Reconstruction public-use database. Practice variation across 14 centres was described for 397 patients who underwent Stage II surgery. Data are centre-level specific and reported as interquartile ranges across all centres, unless otherwise specified.
Preoperative Stage II median age and weight across centres were 5.4 months (interquartile range 4.9–5.7) and 5.7 kg (5.5–6.1), with 70% performed electively. Most patients had pre-Stage-II cardiac catheterisation (98.5–100%). Digoxin was used by 11/14 centres in 25% of patients (23–31%), and 81% had some oral feeds (68–84%). The majority of the centres (86%) performed a bidirectional Glenn versus hemi-Fontan. Median cardiopulmonary bypass time was 96 minutes (75–113). In aggregate, 26% of patients had deep hypothermic circulatory arrest >10 minutes. In 13/14 centres using deep hypothermic circulatory arrest, 12.5% of patients exceeded 10 minutes (8–32%). Seven centres extubated 5% of patients (2–40) in the operating room. Postoperatively, ICU length of stay was 4.8 days (4.0–5.3) and total length of stay was 7.5 days (6–10).
In the Single Ventricle Reconstruction Trial, practice varied widely among centres for nearly all perioperative factors surrounding Stage II. Further analysis may facilitate establishing best practices by identifying the impact of practice variation.
The Pediatric Heart Network designed a career development award to train the next generation of clinician scientists in paediatric-cardiology-related research, a historically underfunded area. We sought to identify the strengths/weaknesses of the programme and describe the scholars’ academic achievements and the network’s return on investment.
Survey questions designed to evaluate the programme were sent to applicants – 13 funded and 19 unfunded applicants – and 20 mentors and/or principal investigators. Response distributions were calculated. χ2 tests of association assessed differences in ratings of the application/selection processes among funded scholars, unfunded applicants, and mentors/principal investigators. Scholars reported post-funding academic achievements.
Survey response rates were 88% for applicants and 100% for mentor/principal investigators. Clarity and fairness of the review were rated as “clear/fair” or “very clear/very fair” by 98% of respondents, but the responses varied among funded scholars, unfunded applicants, and mentors/principal investigators (clarity χ2=10.85, p=0.03; fairness χ2=16.97, p=0.002). Nearly half of the unfunded applicants rated feedback as “not useful” (47%). “Expanding their collaborative network” and “increasing publication potential” were the highest-rated benefits for scholars. Mentors/principal investigators found the programme “very” valuable for the scholars (100%) and the network (75%). The 13 scholars were first/senior authors for 97 abstracts and 109 manuscripts, served on 22 Pediatric Heart Network committees, and were awarded $9,673,660 in subsequent extramural funding for a return of ~$10 for every scholar dollar spent.
Overall, patient satisfaction with the Scholar Award was high and scholars met many academic markers of success. Despite this, programme challenges were identified and improvement strategies were developed.
Children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome are at a risk for neurodevelopmental delays. Current guidelines recommend systematic evaluation and management of neurodevelopmental outcomes with referral for early intervention services. The Single Ventricle Reconstruction Trial represents the largest cohort of children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome ever assembled. Data on life events and resource utilisation have been collected annually. We sought to determine the type and prevalence of early intervention services used from age 1 to 4 years and factors associated with utilisation of services.
Data from 14-month neurodevelopmental assessment and annual medical history forms were used. We assessed the impact of social risk and geographic differences. Fisher exact tests and logistic regression were used to evaluate associations.
Annual medical history forms were available for 302 of 314 children. Greater than half of the children (52–69%) were not receiving services at any age assessed, whereas 20–32% were receiving two or more therapies each year. Utilisation was significantly lower in year 4 (31%) compared with years 1–3 (with a range from 40 to 48%) (p<0.001). Social risk factors were not associated with the use of services at any age but there were significant geographic differences. Significant delay was reported by parents in 18–43% of children at ages 3 and 4.
Despite significant neurodevelopmental delays, early intervention service utilisation was low in this cohort. As survival has improved for children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, attention must shift to strategies to optimise developmental outcomes, including enrolment in early intervention when merited.
Identify trends of enrolment and key challenges when recruiting infants with complex cardiac diseases into a multi-centre, randomised, placebo-controlled drug trial and assess the impact of efforts to share successful strategies on enrolment of subjects.
Rates of screening, eligibility, consent, and randomisation were determined for three consecutive periods of time. Sites collectively addressed barriers to recruitment and shared successful strategies resulting in the Inventory of Best Recruiting Practices. Study teams detailed institutional practices of recruitment in post-trial surveys that were compared with strategies of enrolment initially proposed in the Inventory.
The number of screened patients increased by 30% between the Initial Period and the Intermediate Period (p = 0.007), whereas eligibility decreased slightly by 7%. Of those eligible for entry into the study, the rate of consent increased by 42% (p = 0.025) and randomisation increased by 71% (p = 0.10). During the Final Period, after launch of a competing trial, fewer patients were screened (−14%, p = 0.06), consented (−19%, p = 0.12), and randomised (−34%, p = 0.012). Practices of recruitment in the post-trial survey closely mirrored those in the Inventory.
Early identification and sharing of best strategies of recruitment among all recruiting sites can be effective in increasing recruitment of critically ill infants with congenital cardiac disease and possibly other populations. Strategies of recruitment should focus on those that build relationships with families and create partnerships with the medical providers who care for them. Competing studies pose challenges for enrolment in trials, but fostering trusting relationships with families can result in successful enrolment into multiple studies.