Incidences of obstetric outcomes and sample size calculations: a Danish national registry study based on all deliveries from 2008 to 2015

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INTRODUCTION: In high-income countries the majority of pregnancies have a good outcome, and many adverse obstetric outcomes rarely occur. This makes demonstrating clinically relevant and statistically significant effects of new interventions a challenge. The objective of the study was to report incidences of important obstetric outcomes and to calculate sample sizes for tentative studies.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The study was a registry-based study. Data were retrieved from the Danish Medical Birth Registry and included all deliveries in Denmark from 2008 to 2015. The total population included 465 919 deliveries. The study population comprised intended vaginal deliveries with a single fetus in cephalic presentation at term (n=381 567). Incidences were reported for 20 outcomes considering the relevance for the patients and the severity of the outcomes. We calculated the sample sizes required in tentative obstetric studies to detect risk reductions of 25% and 50%, for tests at the 5% level, using a power of 80% and 90%. For the randomized controlled trials we calculated the sample size required for comparing two proportions with equal-sized groups, while for the cohort study we calculated the sample size also required for two proportions but with unequal sized groups. Outcome measures for sample size calculation were: neonatal mortality, Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes and emergency cesarean section.

RESULTS: The incidence of neonatal mortality, Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes and emergency cesarean section was 0.05%, 0.58% and 10.5%, respectively. Using neonatal mortality as the outcome in a tentative randomized controlled trial with an expected risk reduction of 50% and power of 80%, our calculation showed a sample size of 195 036 deliveries. Using Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes or emergency cesarean section as the outcome, 16 254 and 818 deliveries, respectively were required. In tentative cohort studies, the required sample sizes were larger due to the unequal proportion of exposed/non-exposed women.

CONCLUSIONS: Most obstetric outcomes occur rarely; thus, very large sample sizes are required to achieve adequate statistical power in randomized controlled trials. Multicenter studies, international collaborations or alternative study designs to randomized controlled trials could be considered. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)34-41
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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