This article was originally published here
BMJ Open. 2021 Aug 13;11(8):e045372. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-045372.
OBJECTIVES: Access to full texts of randomised controlled clinical trials (RCTs) is often limited, so brief summaries of studies play a pivotal role. In 2008, a checklist was provided to ensure the transparency and completeness of abstracts. The aim of this investigation was to estimate adherence to the reporting guidelines of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) criteria for abstracts (CONSORT-A) in RCT publications.
PRIMARY ENDPOINT: Assessment according to the percentage of compliance with the 16 CONSORT-A criteria per study.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study is based on a full survey (212 RCT abstracts in dental implantology, PubMed search, publication period 2014-2016, 45 journals, median impact factor: 2.328). In addition to merely documenting ‘adherence’ to criteria, the authors also assessed the ‘complete implementation’ of the requested information where possible. The collection of data was performed independently by two dentists, and a final consensus was reached. The primary endpoint was evaluated by medians and quartiles. Additionally, a Poisson regression was conducted to detect influencing factors.
RESULTS: A median of 50% (Q1-Q3: 44%-63%) was documented for the 16 criteria listed in the CONSORT-A statement. Nine of the 16 criteria were considered in fewer than 50% of the abstracts. ‘Correct implementation’ was achieved for a median of 43% (Q1-Q3: 31%-50%) of the criteria. An additional application of Poisson regression revealed that the number of words used had a locally significant impact on the number of reported CONSORT criteria for abstracts (incidence rate ratio 1.001, 95% CI 1.001 to 1.002).
CONCLUSION: Transparent and complete reporting in abstracts appears problematic. A limited word count seems to result in a reduction in necessary information. As current scientific knowledge is often not readily available in the form of publications, abstracts constitute the primary basis for decision making in clinical practice and research. This is why journals should refrain from limiting the number of words too strictly in order to facilitate comprehensive reporting in abstracts.