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Acta Vet Scand. 2005;46(1-2):57-68.

Stratification, blinding and placebo effect in a randomized, double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of gold bead implantation in dogs with hip dysplasia.

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Department of Companion Animal Clinical Sciences, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the need for and choice of stratification factors, and the effects of blinding and placebo in a clinical experiment. Eighty dogs with canine hip dysplasia (CHD) were included in a randomized, placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trial with stratified parallel group design, in which body weight and degree of CHD were used as stratification factors. Thirty-eight dogs were allocated to gold bead implantation and 42 to placebo. After six months, 33 of the 42 placebo-treated dogs received gold bead implantation in an open study lasting a further 18 months. The main outcome variable in the study was change in pain signs of CHD as assessed by the owner. No significant difference in the main outcome variable, regardless of the treatment given, could be detected in the two chosen stratification factors. The only factor to influence the main outcome variable significantly was age. The blinding procedure used in the study, in which 60% of the owners correctly guessed the treatment given, was found sufficient. Of those who guessed the treatment erroneously, 88% believed the treatment given was gold bead implantation. The treatment efficacy after six months in the blinded treatment group was found to be significantly larger compared to the efficacy obtained in the open study. A significant placebo effect was therefore detected.


The age of the dogs influenced the outcome of the CHD treatment, and is recommended as a stratification factor. A significant placebo effect has to be expected and an optimal blinding procedure is necessary in similar clinical studies.

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