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November 22/29, 2006

Interpreting Surgical Trials With Subjective OutcomesAvoiding UnSPORTsmanlike Conduct

JAMA. 2006;296(20):2483-2485. doi:10.1001/jama.296.20.2483

In this issue of JAMA, 2 articles1,2 report results of the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT). One study is a multicenter trial1 of patients with persistent disk-related pain and neurologic symptoms randomized to undergo diskectomy or receive usual care (most often, patient education, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy, alone or in combination). Because the investigators expected high rates of refusal of randomization based on the differential risk of these 2 treatment strategies, they developed a parallel observational study of patients who qualified for the randomized trial but refused randomization.2 Patients in both the randomized trial and the observational cohort study were similar in almost all characteristics and were followed up in a similar fashion for 2 years.

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