Stepped wedge designs could reduce the required sample size in cluster randomized trials

Willem Woertman, Esther De Hoop*, Mirjam Moerbeek, Sytse U. Zuidema, Debby L. Gerritsen, Steven Teerenstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

225 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The stepped wedge design is increasingly being used in cluster randomized trials (CRTs). However, there is not much information available about the design and analysis strategies for these kinds of trials. Approaches to sample size and power calculations have been provided, but a simple sample size formula is lacking. Therefore, our aim is to provide a sample size formula for cluster randomized stepped wedge designs. Study Design and Setting: We derived a design effect (sample size correction factor) that can be used to estimate the required sample size for stepped wedge designs. Furthermore, we compared the required sample size for the stepped wedge design with a parallel group and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) design. Results: Our formula corrects for clustering as well as for the design. Apart from the cluster size and intracluster correlation, the design effect depends on choices of the number of steps, the number of baseline measurements, and the number of measurements between steps. The stepped wedge design requires a substantial smaller sample size than a parallel group and ANCOVA design. Conclusion: For CRTs, the stepped wedge design is far more efficient than the parallel group and ANCOVA design in terms of sample size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)752-758
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number7
Early online date25 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


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