Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2018 Sep 17. doi: 10.1097/EJA.0000000000000880. [Epub ahead of print]
BACKGROUND: Abstracts are intended to be concise summaries of the entire randomised clinical trial (RCT). Despite their importance, few studies have examined the reporting quality of abstracts in the anaesthesiology literature.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the quality of RCT abstract reporting according to the CONSORT for Abstracts guidelines and determine whether recommended items omitted from the abstract were present in the body of the article.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of RCTs.
SETTING: This study was performed at the University of Western Ontario and University Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre.
PARTICIPANTS: All RCTs meeting inclusion criteria that were published in 2010 or 2016 in six general anaesthesiology journals (Anaesthesia, Anesthesia & Analgesia, Anesthesiology, British Journal of Anaesthesia, Canadian Journal of Anesthesia and European Journal of Anaesthesiology).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The 16 checklist items from the CONSORT for Abstracts statement were used to create a convenience score as a proxy for RCT abstract reporting quality, with each criterion measured as being reported in abstract, not reported in abstract but reported in full-text article, or not reported in abstract or full-text article.
RESULTS: Of the 395 RCTs identified, 219 were published in 2010 and 176 were published in 2016. Out of the maximum possible score of 16, the median abstract score increased from 4 points [interquartile range (IQR): 3 to 5] in 2010 to 6 points [IQR: 5 to 8] in 2016. Although most checklist items showed improvement from 2010 to 2016, around 75% of RCTs in 2016 met fewer than half of the 16 items with no RCTs reporting all 16 items in the abstract. A majority of the RCTs had the information present in the full-text. In 2016, only 71 out of 176 (40%) of RCTs reported outcomes conforming to the CONSORT guidelines (with an effect size and a confidence interval around the effect size) in the Abstract.
CONCLUSION: Abstracts for many anaesthesiology RCTs are incomplete selective summaries of the entire article.