In 2001, the Medical Research Council in the UK launched a randomised trial of treatments for children with persistent ear infections (also known as ‘glue ear’) called TARGET (Trial of Alternative Regimens in Glue Ear Treatment). They followed up with 376 children over 2 years to determine the effects of surgical treatments. But although interim findings were published over the course of the trial, the final results were never reported.

In 2013, Martin Burton and a group of researchers began work on a meta-analysis for the NHS National Institute of Health Research on the evidence behind treating these infections with adenoidectomies – a surgery that removes some of the soft mounds of tissue at the back of the throat. For their analysis they wanted to combine and re-analyse the raw data from different trials. They identified 15 relevant trials and contacted the lead researcher of each. Data from four trials was no longer available and they couldn’t get in touch with the researchers from one other trial. However, they were able to get the data from all of the participants of the TARGET trial, which had never previously been published.

Based on their analysis, they were able to make updated recommendations for the NHS on when children should be given an adenoidectomy. This review means that the results of the children who participated in the TARGET trial were able to inform future treatments.

Read other stories of researchers publishing their old data in our recovered trials series.


Boonacker CW, Rovers MM, Browning GG, Hoes AW, Schilder AG, Burton MJ. Adenoidectomy with or without grommets for children with otitis media: an individual patient data meta-analysis. Health Technol Assess 2014;18(5). Online