THE QUALITY OF REPORTING OF RANDOMIZED TRIALS IN THE JOURNAL OF BONE AND JOINT SURGERY FROM 1988 THROUGH 2000
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BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was threefold: (1) to determine the scientific quality of published randomized trials in the American Volume of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery from 1988 through 2000, (2) to identify predictors of study quality, and (3) to evaluate inter-rater agreement in the scoring of study quality with use of a simple scale. METHODS: Hand searches of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery were conducted in duplicate to identify randomized clinical trials. Of 2468 studies identified, seventy-two (2.9%) met all eligibility criteria. Two investigators each assessed the quality of the study under blinded conditions and abstracted relevant data. RESULTS: The mean score (and standard error) for the quality of the seventy-two randomized trials was 68.1% plus minus 1.6%; 60% (forty-three) scored <75%. Drug trials had a significantly higher mean quality score than did surgical trials (72.8% compared with 63.9%, p < 0.05). Regression analysis revealed that cited affiliation with an epidemiology department and cited funding were associated with higher quality scores. Failure to conceal randomization, to blind outcome assessors, and to describe why patients were excluded resulted in significantly lower quality scores (p < 0.05), more than the 5% decrease expected by removal of each item. A priori calculations of sample size were rarely performed in the reviewed studies, and only 2% of the studies with negative results included a post hoc power analysis. The Detsky quality scale met accepted standards of interobserver reliability (kappa, 0.87; 95% confidence interval, 0.70 to 0.95). CONCLUSIONS: Few studies published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery were randomized trials. More than half of the trials were limited by a lack of concealed randomization, lack of blinding of outcome assessors, or failure to report reasons for excluding patients. Application of standardized guidelines for the reporting of clinical trials in orthopaedics should improve quality.
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