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Antibiotics for lower respiratory tract infection in children presenting in primary care: ARTIC-PC RCT

Background Antimicrobial resistance is a global health threat. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for children with uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections, but there is little randomised evidence to support the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating these infections, either overall or relating to key clinical subgroups in which antibiotic prescribing is common (chest signs; fever; physician rating of unwell; sputum/rattly chest; shortness of breath). Objectives To estimate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of amoxicillin for uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections in children both overall and in clinical subgroups. Design Placebo-controlled trial with qualitative, observational and cost-effectiveness studies. Setting UK general practices. Participants Children aged 1–12 years with acute uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections. Outcomes The primary outcome was the duration in days of symptoms rated moderately bad or worse (measured using a validated diary). Secondary outcomes were symptom severity on days 2–4 (0 = no problem to 6 = as bad as it could be); symptom duration until very little/no problem; reconsultations for new or worsening symptoms; complications; side effects; and resource use. Methods Children were randomised to receive 50 mg/kg/day of oral amoxicillin in divided doses for 7 days, or placebo using pre-prepared packs, using computer-generated random numbers by an independent statistician. Children who were not randomised could participate in a parallel observational study. Semistructured telephone interviews explored the views of 16 parents and 14 clinicians, and the data were analysed using thematic analysis. Throat swabs were analysed using multiplex polymerase chain reaction. Results A total of 432 children were randomised (antibiotics, n = 221; placebo, n = 211). The primary analysis imputed missing data for 115 children. The duration of moderately bad symptoms was similar in the antibiotic and placebo groups overall (median of 5 and 6 days, respectively; hazard ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval 0.90 to 1.42), with similar results for subgroups, and when including antibiotic prescription data from the 326 children in the observational study. Reconsultations for new or worsening symptoms (29.7% and 38.2%, respectively; risk ratio 0.80, 95% confidence interval 0.58 to 1.05), illness progression requiring hospital assessment or admission (2.4% vs. 2.0%) and side effects (38% vs. 34%) were similar in the two groups. Complete-case (n = 317) and per-protocol (n = 185) analyses were similar, and the presence of bacteria did not mediate antibiotic effectiveness. NHS costs per child were slightly higher (antibiotics, £29; placebo, £26), with no difference in non-NHS costs (antibiotics, £33; placebo, £33). A model predicting complications (with seven variables: baseline severity, difference in respiratory rate from normal for age, duration of prior illness, oxygen saturation, sputum/rattly chest, passing urine less often, and diarrhoea) had good discrimination (bootstrapped area under the receiver operator curve 0.83) and calibration. Parents found it difficult to interpret symptoms and signs, used the sounds of the child’s cough to judge the severity of illness, and commonly consulted to receive a clinical examination and reassurance. Parents acknowledged that antibiotics should be used only when ‘necessary’, and clinicians noted a reduction in parents’ expectations for antibiotics. Limitations The study was underpowered to detect small benefits in key subgroups. Conclusion Amoxicillin for uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections in children is unlikely to be clinically effective or to reduce health or societal costs. Parents need better access to information, as well as clear communication about the self-management of their child’s illness and safety-netting. Future work The data can be incorporated in the Cochrane review and individual patient data meta-analysis. Trial registration This trial is registered as ISRCTN79914298. Funding This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 9. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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Clinical and cost effectiveness of endoscopic bipolar radiofrequency ablation for the treatment of malignant biliary obstruction: a systematic review

Early evidence suggests that using radiofrequency ablation as an adjunct to standard care (i.e. endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography with stenting) may improve outcomes in patients with malignant biliary obstruction. To assess the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and potential risks of endoscopic bipolar radiofrequency ablation for malignant biliary obstruction, and the value of future research. Seven bibliographic databases, three websites and seven trials registers were searched from 2008 until 21 January 2021. The study inclusion criteria were as follows: patients with biliary obstruction caused by any form of unresectable malignancy; the intervention was reported as an endoscopic biliary radiofrequency ablation to ablate malignant tissue that obstructs the bile or pancreatic ducts, either to fit a stent (primary radiofrequency ablation) or to clear an obstructed stent (secondary radiofrequency ablation); the primary outcomes were survival, quality of life or procedure-related adverse events; and the study design was a controlled study, an observational study or a case report. Risk of bias was assessed using Cochrane tools. The primary analysis was meta-analysis of the hazard ratio of mortality. Subgroup analyses were planned according to the type of probe, the type of stent (i.e. metal or plastic) and cancer type. A de novo Markov model was developed to model cost and quality-of-life outcomes associated with radiofrequency ablation in patients with primary advanced bile duct cancer. Insufficient data were available for pancreatic cancer and secondary bile duct cancer. An NHS and Personal Social Services perspective was adopted for the analysis. A probabilistic analysis was conducted to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for radiofrequency ablation and the probability that radiofrequency ablation was cost-effective at different thresholds. The population expected value of perfect information was estimated in total and for the effectiveness parameters. Sixty-eight studies (1742 patients) were included in the systematic review. Four studies (336 participants) were combined in a meta-analysis, which showed that the pooled hazard ratio for mortality following primary radiofrequency ablation compared with a stent-only control was 0.34 (95% confidence interval 0.21 to 0.55). Little evidence relating to the impact on quality of life was found. There was no evidence to suggest an increased risk of cholangitis or pancreatitis, but radiofrequency ablation may be associated with an increase in cholecystitis. The results of the cost-effectiveness analysis were that the costs of radiofrequency ablation was £2659 and radiofrequency ablation produced 0.18 quality-adjusted life-years, which was more than no radiofrequency ablation on average. With an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of £14,392 per quality-adjusted life-year, radiofrequency ablation was likely to be cost-effective at a threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life-year across most scenario analyses, with moderate uncertainty. The source of the vast majority of decision uncertainty lay in the effect of radiofrequency ablation on stent patency. Only 6 of 18 comparative studies contributed to the survival meta-analysis, and few data were found concerning secondary radiofrequency ablation. The economic model and cost-effectiveness meta-analysis required simplification because of data limitations. Inconsistencies in standard reporting and study design were noted. Primary radiofrequency ablation increases survival and is likely to be cost-effective. The evidence for the impact of secondary radiofrequency ablation on survival and of quality of life is limited. There was a lack of robust clinical effectiveness data and, therefore, more information is needed for this indication. Future work investigating radiofrequency ablation must collect quality-of-life data. High-quality randomised controlled trials in secondary radiofrequency ablation are needed, with appropriate outcomes recorded. This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42020170233. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 7. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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Total ankle replacement versus ankle arthrodesis for patients aged 50–85 years with end-stage ankle osteoarthritis: the TARVA RCT

We aimed to compare the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and complication rates of total ankle replacement with those of arthrodesis (i.e. ankle fusion) in the treatment of end-stage ankle osteoarthritis. This was a pragmatic, multicentre, parallel-group, non-blinded randomised controlled trial. Patients with end-stage ankle osteoarthritis who were aged 50-85 years and were suitable for both procedures were recruited from 17 UK hospitals and randomised using minimisation. The primary outcome was the change in the Manchester-Oxford Foot Questionnaire walking/standing domain scores between the preoperative baseline and 52 weeks post surgery. Between March 2015 and January 2019, 303 participants were randomised using a minimisation algorithm: 152 to total ankle replacement and 151 to ankle fusion. At 52 weeks, the mean (standard deviation) Manchester-Oxford Foot Questionnaire walking/standing domain score was 31.4 (30.4) in the total ankle replacement arm (n = 136) and 36.8 (30.6) in the ankle fusion arm (n = 140); the adjusted difference in the change was -5.6 (95% confidence interval -12.5 to 1.4; p = 0.12) in the intention-to-treat analysis. By week 52, one patient in the total ankle replacement arm required revision. Rates of wound-healing issues (13.4% vs. 5.7%) and nerve injuries (4.2% vs. < 1%) were higher and the rate of thromboembolic events was lower (2.9% vs. 4.9%) in the total ankle replacement arm than in the ankle fusion arm. The bone non-union rate (based on plain radiographs) in the ankle fusion arm was 12.1%, but only 7.1% of patients had symptoms. A post hoc analysis of fixed-bearing total ankle replacement showed a statistically significant improvement over ankle fusion in Manchester-Oxford Foot Questionnaire walking/standing domain score (-11.1, 95% confidence interval -19.3 to -2.9; p = 0.008). We estimate a 69% likelihood that total ankle replacement is cost-effective compared with ankle fusion at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's cost-effectiveness threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained over the patient's lifetime. This initial report contains only 52-week data, which must therefore be interpreted with caution. In addition, the pragmatic nature of the study means that there was heterogeneity between surgical implants and techniques. The trial was run across 17 NHS centres to ensure that decision-making streams reflected the standard of care in the NHS as closely as possible. Both total ankle replacement and ankle fusion improved patients' quality of life at 1 year, and both appear to be safe. When total ankle replacement was compared with ankle fusion overall, we were unable to show a statistically significant difference between the two arms in terms of our primary outcome measure. The total ankle replacement versus ankle arthrodesis (TARVA) trial is inconclusive in terms of superiority of total ankle replacement, as the 95% confidence interval for the adjusted treatment effect includes both a difference of zero and the minimal important difference of 12, but it can rule out the superiority of ankle fusion. A post hoc analysis comparing fixed-bearing total ankle replacement with ankle fusion showed a statistically significant improvement of total ankle replacement over ankle fusion in Manchester-Oxford Foot Questionnaire walking/standing domain score. Total ankle replacement appears to be cost-effective compared with ankle fusion at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's cost-effectiveness threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained over a patient's lifetime based on long-term economic modelling. We recommend long-term follow-up of this important cohort, in particular radiological and clinical progress. We also recommend studies to explore the sensitivity of clinical scores to detect clinically important differences between arms when both have already achieved a significant improvement from baseline. This trial is registered as ISRCTN60672307 and ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02128555. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 5. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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Views of female genital mutilation survivors, men and health-care professionals on timing of deinfibulation surgery and NHS service provision: qualitative FGM Sister Study

Female genital mutilation is an important UK health-care challenge. There are no health benefits of female genital mutilation, and it is associated with lifelong physical, psychological and sexual impacts. The annual cost to the NHS to care for survivors is £100M. Deinfibulation may improve the health and well-being of some women, but there is no consensus on the optimal timing of surgery for type 3 survivors. UK care provision is reportedly suboptimal. We aimed to explore the views of survivors, men and health-care professionals on the timing of deinfibulation surgery and NHS service provision. This was a qualitative study informed by the Sound of Silence framework. This framework is useful for researching sensitive issues and the health-care needs of marginalised populations. A total of 101 interviews with 44 survivors, 13 men and 44 health-care professionals were conducted, supplemented by two workshops with affected communities (participants, n = 10) and one workshop with stakeholders (participants, n = 30). Data were analysed using a hybrid framework method. There was no clear consensus between groups on the optimal timing of deinfibulation. However, within groups, survivors expressed a preference for deinfibulation pre pregnancy; health-care professionals preferred antenatal deinfibulation, with the caveat that it should be the survivor's choice. There was no consensus among men. There was agreement that deinfibulation should take place in a hospital setting and be undertaken by a suitable health-care professional. Decision-making around deinfibulation was complex. Deficiencies in professionals' awareness, knowledge and understanding resulted in impacts on the provision of appropriate care. Although there were examples of good practice and positive care interactions, in general, service provision was opaque and remains suboptimal, with deficiencies most notable in mental health. Deinfibulation reportedly helps to mitigate some of the impacts of female genital mutilation. Interactions between survivors and health-care professionals were disproportionately framed around the law. The way in which services are planned and provided often silences the perspectives and preferences of survivors and their families. Only a minority of the interviews were conducted in a language other than English, and the recruitment of survivors was predominantly through maternity settings, which meant that some voices may not have been heard. The sample of men was relatively small, limiting interpretation. In general, service provision remains suboptimal and can silence the perspectives and preferences of survivors. Deinfibulation services need to be widely advertised and information should highlight that the procedure will be carried out in hospital by suitable health-care professionals and that a range of time points will be offered to facilitate choice. Future services should be developed with survivors to ensure that they are clinically and culturally appropriate. Guidelines should be updated to better reflect the needs of survivors and to ensure consistency in service provision. Research is needed to (1) map female genital mutilation service provision; (2) develop and test effective education to address deficits in awareness and knowledge for affected communities and health-care professionals; and (3) develop, monitor and evaluate clinically and culturally competent female genital mutilation services. Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN14710507. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 3. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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Motivational support intervention to reduce smoking and increase physical activity in smokers not ready to quit: the TARS RCT

Physical activity can support smoking cessation for smokers wanting to quit, but there have been no studies on supporting smokers wanting only to reduce. More broadly, the effect of motivational support for such smokers is unclear. The objectives were to determine if motivational support to increase physical activity and reduce smoking for smokers not wanting to immediately quit helps reduce smoking and increase abstinence and physical activity, and to determine if this intervention is cost-effective. This was a multicentred, two-arm, parallel-group, randomised (1 : 1) controlled superiority trial with accompanying trial-based and model-based economic evaluations, and a process evaluation. Participants from health and other community settings in four English cities received either the intervention (n = 457) or usual support (n = 458). The intervention consisted of up to eight face-to-face or telephone behavioural support sessions to reduce smoking and increase physical activity. The main outcome measures were carbon monoxide-verified 6- and 12-month floating prolonged abstinence (primary outcome), self-reported number of cigarettes smoked per day, number of quit attempts and carbon monoxide-verified abstinence at 3 and 9 months. Furthermore, self-reported (3 and 9 months) and accelerometer-recorded (3 months) physical activity data were gathered. Process items, intervention costs and cost-effectiveness were also assessed. The average age of the sample was 49.8 years, and participants were predominantly from areas with socioeconomic deprivation and were moderately heavy smokers. The intervention was delivered with good fidelity. Few participants achieved carbon monoxide-verified 6-month prolonged abstinence [nine (2.0%) in the intervention group and four (0.9%) in the control group; adjusted odds ratio 2.30 (95% confidence interval 0.70 to 7.56)] or 12-month prolonged abstinence [six (1.3%) in the intervention group and one (0.2%) in the control group; adjusted odds ratio 6.33 (95% confidence interval 0.76 to 53.10)]. At 3 months, the intervention participants smoked fewer cigarettes than the control participants (21.1 vs. 26.8 per day). Intervention participants were more likely to reduce cigarettes by ≥ 50% by 3 months [18.9% vs. 10.5%; adjusted odds ratio 1.98 (95% confidence interval 1.35 to 2.90] and 9 months [14.4% vs. 10.0%; adjusted odds ratio 1.52 (95% confidence interval 1.01 to 2.29)], and reported more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at 3 months [adjusted weekly mean difference of 81.61 minutes (95% confidence interval 28.75 to 134.47 minutes)], but not at 9 months. Increased physical activity did not mediate intervention effects on smoking. The intervention positively influenced most smoking and physical activity beliefs, with some intervention effects mediating changes in smoking and physical activity outcomes. The average intervention cost was estimated to be £239.18 per person, with an overall additional cost of £173.50 (95% confidence interval -£353.82 to £513.77) when considering intervention and health-care costs. The 1.1% absolute between-group difference in carbon monoxide-verified 6-month prolonged abstinence provided a small gain in lifetime quality-adjusted life-years (0.006), and a minimal saving in lifetime health-care costs (net saving £236). There was no evidence that behavioural support for smoking reduction and increased physical activity led to meaningful increases in prolonged abstinence among smokers with no immediate plans to quit smoking. The intervention is not cost-effective. Prolonged abstinence rates were much lower than expected, meaning that the trial was underpowered to provide confidence that the intervention doubled prolonged abstinence. Further research should explore the effects of the present intervention to support smokers who want to reduce prior to quitting, and/or extend the support available for prolonged reduction and abstinence. This trial is registered as ISRCTN47776579. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 4. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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Routinely used interventions to improve attachment in infants and young children: a national survey and two systematic reviews

Attachment refers to an infant's innate tendency to seek comfort from their caregiver. Research shows that attachment is important in promoting healthy social and emotional development. Many parenting interventions have been developed to improve attachment outcomes for children. However, numerous interventions used in routine practice have a limited evidence base, meaning that we cannot be sure if they are helpful or harmful. This research aimed to conduct a large-scale survey to identify what interventions are being used in UK services to improve child attachment; conduct a systematic review to evaluate the evidence for parenting attachment interventions; and develop recommendations for future research and practice. We worked closely with our Expert Reference Group to plan a large-scale survey focused on relevant UK services. We then conducted two systematic reviews. One searched for all randomised controlled trial evidence for any attachment parenting intervention. The second searched for all research for the top 10 routinely used interventions identified from the survey. The survey collected 625 responses covering 734 UK services. The results identified the 10 most commonly used interventions. The responses showed a limited use of validated measures and a wide variety of definitions of attachment. For the first review, seven studies were included from 2516 identified records. These were combined with results from previous reviews conducted by the team. Meta-analyses showed that, overall, parenting interventions are effective in reducing disorganised attachment (pooled odds ratio 0.54, 95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.77) and increasing secure attachment (pooled odds ratio 1.85, 95% confidence interval 1.36 to 2.52). The second review searched the literature for the top 10 routinely used interventions identified by the survey; 61 studies were included from 1198 identified records. The results showed that many of the most commonly used interventions in UK services have a weak evidence base and those with the strongest evidence base are not as widely used. There is a need for better links between research and practice to ensure that interventions offered to families are safe and effective. Possible reasons for the disparity include the cost and accessibility of training. There is also a need for improved understanding by professionals regarding the meaning of attachment. Although the survey had good geographical spread, most respondents were based in England. For review 2 we were unable to access a large number of papers; however, we conducted extensive reference checking to account for this. There is a need for robust research to test the efficacy of routinely used attachment interventions. Research could also explore why routinely used interventions are not consistently subject to thorough evaluation; how to embed dissemination, cost-effectiveness, fidelity and sustainability into research; and how to keep clinical practice up to date with research developments. This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42019137362. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 2. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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Acceptability and feasibility of a planned preconception weight loss intervention in women with long-acting reversible contraception: the Plan-it mixed-methods study

Women with overweight (a body mass index of ≥ 25 kg/m2) or obesity (a body mass index of ≥ 30 kg/m2) are at greater risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy and labour than women with a healthy weight. Women who remove their long-acting reversible contraception (i.e. coils or implants) are one of the few groups of people who contact services as part of their preparation for conception, creating an opportunity to offer a weight loss intervention. The objectives were to understand if routine NHS data captured the pathway from long-acting reversible contraception removal to pregnancy and included body mass index; to identify the suitable components of a preconception weight loss intervention; and to engage with key stakeholders to determine the acceptability and feasibility of asking women with overweight/obesity to delay the removal of their long-acting reversible contraception in order to take part in a preconception weight loss intervention. This was a preparatory mixed-methods study, assessing the acceptability and feasibility of a potential intervention, using routine NHS data and purposefully collected qualitative data. The NHS routine data included all women with a long-acting reversible contraception code. There were three groups of participants in the surveys and interviews: health-care practitioners who remove long-acting reversible contraception; weight management consultants; and women of reproductive age with experience of overweight/obesity and of using long-acting reversible contraception. UK-based health-care practitioners recruited at professional meetings; and weight management consultants and contraceptive users recruited via social media. Anonymised routine data from UK sexual health clinics and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, including the Pregnancy Register; and online surveys and qualitative interviews with stakeholders. The records of 2,632,871 women aged 16-48 years showed that 318,040 had at least one long-acting reversible contraception event, with 62% of records including a body mass index. Given the identified limitations of the routine NHS data sets, it would not be feasible to reliably identify women with overweight/obesity who request a long-acting reversible contraception removal with an intention to become pregnant. Online surveys were completed by 100 health-care practitioners, four weight management consultants and 243 contraceptive users. Ten health-care practitioners and 20 long-acting reversible contraception users completed qualitative interviews. A realist-informed approach generated a hypothesised programme theory. The combination of weight discussions and the delay of long-acting reversible contraception removal was unacceptable as an intervention to contraceptive users for ethical and practical reasons. However, a preconception health intervention incorporating weight loss could be acceptable, and one potential programme is outlined. There was very limited engagement with weight management consultants, and the sample of participating stakeholders may not be representative. An intervention that asks women to delay long-acting reversible contraception removal to participate in a preconception weight loss intervention would be neither feasible nor acceptable. A preconception health programme, including weight management, would be welcomed but requires risk communication training of health-care practitioners. Work to improve routine data sets, increase awareness of the importance of preconception health and overcome health-care practitioner barriers to discussing weight as part of preconception care is a priority. This trial is registered as ISRCTN14733020. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 1.

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Standard threshold laser versus subthreshold micropulse laser for adults with diabetic macular oedema: the DIAMONDS non-inferiority RCT

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends macular laser to treat diabetic macular oedema with a central retinal subfield thickness of < 400 µm on optical coherence tomography. The DIAMONDS (DIAbetic Macular Oedema aNd Diode Subthreshold micropulse laser) trial compared standard threshold macular laser with subthreshold micropulse laser to treat diabetic macular oedema suitable for macular laser. Determining the clinical effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of subthreshold micropulse laser compared with standard threshold macular laser to treat diabetic macular oedema with a central retinal subfield thickness of < 400 µm. A pragmatic, multicentre, allocation-concealed, double-masked, randomised, non-inferiority, clinical trial. Hospital eye services in the UK. Adults with diabetes and centre-involving diabetic macular oedema with a central retinal subfield thickness of < 400 µm, and a visual acuity of > 24 Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study letters (Snellen equivalent > 20/320) in one/both eyes. Participants were randomised 1 : 1 to receive 577 nm subthreshold micropulse laser or standard threshold macular laser (e.g. argon laser, frequency-doubled neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet 532 nm laser); laser treatments could be repeated as needed. Rescue therapy with intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapies or steroids was allowed if a loss of ≥ 10 Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study letters between visits occurred and/or central retinal subfield thickness increased to > 400 µm. The primary outcome was the mean change in best-corrected visual acuity in the study eye at 24 months (non-inferiority margin 5 Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study letters). Secondary outcomes included the mean change from baseline to 24 months in the following: binocular best-corrected visual acuity; central retinal subfield thickness; the mean deviation of the Humphrey 10-2 visual field in the study eye; the percentage of people meeting driving standards; and the EuroQol-5 Dimensions, five-level version, National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire - 25 and Vision and Quality of Life Index scores. Other secondary outcomes were the cost per quality-adjusted life-years gained, adverse effects, number of laser treatments and additional rescue treatments. The DIAMONDS trial recruited fully (n = 266); 87% of participants in the subthreshold micropulse laser group and 86% of participants in the standard threshold macular laser group had primary outcome data. Groups were balanced regarding baseline characteristics. Mean best-corrected visual acuity change in the study eye from baseline to month 24 was -2.43 letters (standard deviation 8.20 letters) in the subthreshold micropulse laser group and -0.45 letters (standard deviation 6.72 letters) in the standard threshold macular laser group. Subthreshold micropulse laser was deemed to be not only non-inferior but also equivalent to standard threshold macular laser as the 95% confidence interval (-3.9 to -0.04 letters) lay wholly within both the upper and lower margins of the permitted maximum difference (5 Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study letters). There was no statistically significant difference between groups in any of the secondary outcomes investigated with the exception of the number of laser treatments performed, which was slightly higher in the subthreshold micropulse laser group (mean difference 0.48, 95% confidence interval 0.18 to 0.79; p = 0.002). Base-case analysis indicated no significant difference in the cost per quality-adjusted life-years between groups. A trial in people with ≥ 400 µm diabetic macular oedema comparing anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy alone with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy and macular laser applied at the time when central retinal subfield thickness has decreased to < 400 µm following anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections would be of value because it could reduce the number of injections and, subsequently, costs and risks and inconvenience to patients. The majority of participants enrolled had poorly controlled diabetes. Subthreshold micropulse laser was equivalent to standard threshold macular laser but required a slightly higher number of laser treatments. This trial is registered as EudraCT 2015-001940-12, ISRCTN17742985 and NCT03690050. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research ( NIHR ) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 26, No. 50. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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