Perioperative haemodynamic therapy for major gastrointestinal surgery: the effect of a Bayesian approach to interpreting the findings of a randomised controlled trial

Elizabeth Ryan, Ewen Harrison, Rupert Pearse, Simon Gates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
137 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The traditional approach of null hypothesis testing dominates the design and analysis of randomised controlled trials. This study aimed to demonstrate how a simple Bayesian analysis could have been used to analyse the Optimisation of Perioperative Cardiovascular Management to Improve Surgical Outcome (OPTIMISE) trial to obtain more clinically interpretable results.

Design, setting, participants and interventions: The OPTIMISE trial was a pragmatic, multicentre, observer-blinded, randomised controlled trial of 734 high-risk patients undergoing major gastrointestinal surgery in 17 acute care hospitals in the UK. Patients were randomly allocated to a cardiac output-guided haemodynamic therapy algorithm for intravenous fluid and inotropic drug administration during and in the 6 hours following surgery (n=368) or to standard care (n=366). The primary outcome was a binary outcome consisting of a composite of predefined 30-day moderate or major complications and mortality.

Methods: We repeated the primary outcome analysis of the OPTIMISE trial using Bayesian statistical methods to calculate the probability that the intervention was superior, and the probability that a clinically relevant difference existed. We explored the impact of a flat prior and an evidence-based prior on our analyses.

Results: Although OPTIMISE was not powered to detect a statistically significant difference between the treatment arms for the observed effect size (relative risk=0.84, 95% CI 0.70 to 1.01; p=0.07), by using Bayesian analyses we were able to demonstrate that there was a 96.9% (flat prior) to 99.5% (evidence-based prior) probability that the intervention was superior to the control.

Conclusions: The use of a Bayesian analytical approach provided a different interpretation of the findings of the OPTIMISE trial (compared with the original frequentist analysis), and suggested patient benefit from the intervention. Incorporation of information from previous studies provided further evidence of a benefit from the intervention. Bayesian analyses can produce results that are more easily interpretable and relevant to clinicians and policy-makers.

Trial registration number: ISRCTN04386758; Post-results.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere024256
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ open
Issue number3
Early online date7 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


  • Bayesian analysis
  • peri-operative care
  • randomised controlled trial
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Perioperative haemodynamic therapy for major gastrointestinal surgery: the effect of a Bayesian approach to interpreting the findings of a randomised controlled trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this