Fragility Index in Cardiovascular Randomized Controlled Trials

Muhammad Shahzeb Khan, Rohan Kumar Ochani, Asim Shaikh, Muhammad Shariq Usman, Naser Yamani, Safi U. Khan, M. Hassan Murad, John Mandrola, Rami Doukky, Richard A. Krasuski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Efficacy of an intervention is commonly evaluated using P values, in addition to effect size measures such as absolute risk reduction, relative risk reduction, and numbers needed to treat. However, these measures are not always intuitive to clinicians. The fragility index (FI) is a more intuitive number that can facilitate interpretation but can only be used with binary outcomes. FI is the minimum number of patients who must be moved from the nonevent group to the event group to turn a significant result nonsignificant. In this retrospective analysis, we assessed the robustness of cardiovascular randomized controlled trials (RCTs), which report a positive (statistically significant) primary outcome by using the FI. Methods and Results: We searched Medline from 2007 to 2017 to identify cardiovascular RCTs published in 6 high impact journals (The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Circulation, Journal of the American College of Cardiology and European Heart Journal). Only RCTs with sample sizes >500 and a 2-by-2 factorial design or dichotomous primary outcomes were selected. FI was calculated using a defined approach. Among the cohort of 123 RCTs that met inclusion criteria, median FI was 13 (interquartile range, 5-26). In 28 trials (22.8%), FI ranged between 1 and 4. In 37 trials (30.1%), number of patients lost to follow-up was higher than the FI. Pharmaceutical interventions had higher FI compared with other interventions, FI=19 (7-52; P=0.002). Median FI varied according to subspecialty (electrophysiology=2; heart failure=11; interventional cardiology=8; P=0.020) and multiregional RCTs had higher FI=22 (12-53.25; P=0.023). FI did not differ based on risk of bias indicators, funding, or publication year. Conclusions: Considerable variations in FI were observed among cardiovascular trials, suggesting the need for careful interpretation of results, particularly when number of patients lost to follow-up exceeds FI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere005755
JournalCirculation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • bias
  • cardiovascular system
  • fragility index
  • heart failure
  • sample size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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