A cross-sectional study of the reporting quality of pilot or feasibility trials in high-impact anesthesia journals
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PURPOSE: Pilot trials inform the design and conduct of larger scale trials. Using the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) pilot extension guidelines, we assessed reporting quality in five high-impact anesthesia journals and explored factors associated with reporting quality. METHODS: The five highest-impact anesthesia journals were screened for randomized-controlled trials published as pilot or feasibility trials between 2006 and 2016. A pair of reviewers independently screened citations, extracted data, and assessed reporting quality using the CONSORT pilot trial extension checklists for abstracts and full texts. We reported the percentage adherence for each item, along with the median [interquartile range (IQR)] or mean (standard deviation [SD]) for all items. The factors considered to influence reporting were: 1) trial registration, 2) industry funding, 3) trial identification as a pilot or feasibility in the title or abstract, 4) primary objective as "feasibility", and 5) the specific journal. The association was estimated using generalized estimating equations and reported as incidence rate ratios with 99% confidence intervals. RESULTS: Of 364 citations, 58 articles were eligible. The median [IQR] number of CONSORT abstract items reported was 5 [4-7], and the mean (SD) number of full text items reported was 13 (5). Significantly poor reporting was associated with "not registering the trial" (both abstracts and full texts), "trial not identified as a pilot" (abstracts), and "using clinical hypothesis as the primary objective" (full texts). CONCLUSION: The reporting quality of pilot trials published in leading anesthesia journals is poor. Journal editorial boards can encourage improved reporting by supporting adherence to the CONSORT extension for pilot trials.
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