The framing of research questions using the PICOT format in randomized controlled trials of venous ulcer disease is suboptimal: A systematic survey
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Despite several publications on venous ulcers, there is still a lack of evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to support certain treatments for patients with this disorder. Well-designed research questions using the PICOT (Population; Intervention; Comparator; Outcome; Time-frame) format in RCTs can improve the quality of research. The objectives of this study were to assess how the PICOT format is used to frame research questions in RCTs published on venous ulcer disease and to determine the factors associated with better adherence to the PICOT format. We conducted a systematic survey of RCTs on venous ulcers published in the PubMed database between January 2009 and May 2016. All RCTs published in English addressing therapeutic interventions for venous ulcer disease in human subjects were included. We examined whether the five elements of the PICOT format were used in formulating the research question and scored them between 0 and 5. The primary outcome of this systematic survey was the percentage of studies that adequately reported all five PICOT elements. Eighty-five (85) RCTs were included with median PICOT score of 3 (IQR = 1.5). Four elements of PICOT were present in 28 reports (32.9%) and only 2 RCTS (2.3%) reported all the PICOT elements. Population and intervention were often appropriately described, in (70/85) 82.4% and (83/85) 97.6% of the studies, respectively; however, comparison intervention and outcome were presented in only (53/85) 62.3% and (48/85) 56.5% of studies, respectively. Very few RCTs (7.1%; 6/85) reported the study time frame. No journal or RCT characteristics were found to be significantly associated with better reporting. Use of the PICOT format to frame research questions in RCTs published on venous ulcers is suboptimal, and our study reinforces the importance of framing a good research question to improve the design of trials and quality of evidence in venous ulcer disease.
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