Clinical Trials in Traumatic Brain Injury: Past Experience and Current Developments
In this article, we review past and current experience in clinical trials of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), we discuss limitations and challenges, and we summarize current directions. The focus is on severe and moderate TBIs. A systematic literature search of the years from 1980 to 2009 revealed 27 large phase III trials in TBI; we were aware of a further 6 unpublished trials. Analysis of these 33 trials yielded interesting observations:•There was a peak incidence of trial initiations that occurred in the mid-1990s with a sharp decline during the period from 2000 to 2004.•Most trials that reported a significant treatment effect were studies on a therapeutic strategy (e.g., decompressive craniectomy, hypothermia), and these were single-center studies.•Increasingly, studies have been shifting toward the Far East. The currently existing trial registries permit insight into ongoing or recently conducted trials. Compared with the past decade, the number of studies on neuroprotective agents taken forward into efficacy-oriented studies is low. In contrast, the number of studies on therapeutic strategies appears to be increasing again. The disappointing results in trials on neuroprotective agents in TBI have led to a critical reappraisal of clinical trial methodology. This has resulted in recommendations for preclinical workup and has triggered extensive analysis on approaches to improve the design and analysis of clinical trials in TBI. An interagency initiative toward standardization on selection and coding of data elements across the broad spectrum of TBI is ongoing, and will facilitate comparison of research findings across studies and encourage high-quality meta-analysis of individual patient data in the future.