Background/Aims: In clinical trials, participant retention is critical to reduce bias and maintain statistical power for hypothesis testing. Within a multi-center clinical trial of diabetic retinopathy, we investigated whether regular phone calls to participants from the coordinating center improved long-term participant retention. Methods: Among 305 adults in the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Retina Network Protocol S randomized trial, 152 participants were randomly assigned to receive phone calls at baseline, 6 months, and annually through 3 years (annual contact group) while 153 participants were assigned to receive a phone call at baseline only (baseline contact group). All participants could be contacted if visits were missed. The main outcomes were visit completion, excluding deaths, at 2 years (the primary outcome time point) and at 5 years (the final time point). Results: At baseline, 77% (117 of 152) of participants in the annual contact group and 76% (116 of 153) in the baseline contact group were successfully contacted. Among participants in the annual contact group active at each annual visit (i.e. not dropped from the study or deceased), 85% (125 of 147), 79% (108 of 136), and 88% (110 of 125) were contacted successfully by telephone around the time of the 1-, 2-, and 3-year visits, respectively. In the annual and baseline contact groups, completion rates for the 2-year primary outcome visit were 88% (129 of 147) versus 87% (125 of 144), respectively, with a risk ratio of 1.01 (95% confidence interval: 0.93–1.10, p =.81). At 5 years, the final study visit, participant completion rates were 67% (96 of 144) versus 66% (88 of 133) with a risk ratio of 1.01 (95% confidence interval = 0.85–1.19, p =.93). At 2 years, the completion rate of participants successfully contacted at baseline was 89% (202 of 226) versus 80% (52 of 65) among those not contacted successfully (risk ratio = 1.12, 95% confidence interval = 0.98–1.27, p =.09); at 5 years, the completion percentages by baseline contact success were 69% (148 of 213) versus 56% (36 of 64; risk ratio = 1.24, 95% confidence interval = 0.98–1.56, p =.08). Conclusion: Regular phone calls from the coordinating center to participants during follow-up in this randomized clinical trial did not improve long-term participant retention.
- loss to follow-up
- multi-center randomized clinical trial
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