SURGICAL RETROSPECTIVEInnovation and Tribulation in the History of Randomized Controlled Trials in SurgeryBothwell, Laura E. PhD∗; Jones, David S. MD, PhD† Author Information ∗Health Sciences Department, Worcester State University, Worcester, Massachusetts †Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. [email protected]. Funding for this Scholarly Works project was made possible by grant 1G13LM012053 from the National Library of Medicine, NIH, DHHS. The views expressed in any written publication, or other media, do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Annals of Surgery: December 2021 - Volume 274 - Issue 6 - p e616-e624 doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003631 Buy Metrics Abstract Despite persistent critiques of the rigor of surgical research, surgeons have actually pursued careful empirical studies for centuries. Their work has enriched not only surgical science but also the development of evidencebased medicine. From conducting landmark controlled trials, to using statistics, alternate patient allocation, randomization, and sham controls, surgeons have long embraced innovative trial approaches and played important roles in the development of key methods of RCTs. However, historical contexts unique to surgery have shaped the implementation of RCTs in this field. Unlike the history of pharmaceuticals, in which substantial research funding has been devoted to testing new drugs before their approval, surgical trials have followed a different trajectory. New operations have repeatedly come into wide use in the absence of RCTs. On many occasions, when established procedures have become controversial, surgeons have then marshaled the resources to conduct RCTs reassessing the operations. Such trials have triggered powerful debates in which proponents of surgical RCTs battled against ingrained practices and preferences. In such cases, RCTs often were not decisive factors in determining the fate of surgical practices but supporting tools that followed and reflected changes in surgical judgment already underway. Surgical trialists also have encountered specific, recurring challenges, especially with the methodological and ethical complexity of blinded and sham-controlled trials. The history of surgical trials thus reveals major contributions from surgeons to the advancement of evidence-based medicine, as well as ongoing challenges. Strengthened and systematic trial support could advance the future of surgical RCTs. Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.