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Are we still missing the mark with randomised controlled trial abstracts?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Based on a 10-year analysis in one subject area, adherence to CONSORT for Abstracts remains inadequate, reducing abstract quality.

Despite being available since 2008, it seems many researchers are still not adhering to Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) for Abstracts guidance. A recent BMJ Open article from Pavle Vrebalov Cindro et al looked at papers reporting randomised clinical trials in a single subject area (Helicobacter pylori infection) to see how many abstracts met the mark.

Researchers assessed 451 abstracts published between 2010 and 2019, attributing a quality score based on the number of items adhered to on the 17-item CONSORT for Abstracts checklist. Overall, the median quality score was 8/17.

Although key elements such as trial objectives, interventions, and conclusions were almost always adequately reported, the researchers found that important methodological information was often missing, such as:

  • blinding (included in 11% of abstracts)
  • adequate detail on trial design (8%)
  • randomisation (3%)
  • and funding (2%).

None of the abstracts reported all 17 items on the CONSORT for Abstracts checklist.

Although key elements such as trial objectives, interventions, and conclusions were almost always adequately reported…none of the abstracts reported all 17 items on the CONSORT for Abstracts checklist.

Somewhat reassuringly, overall quality scores were significantly higher for abstracts posted from 2014 onwards, compared with those published between 2010 and 2011. Journal endorsement of CONSORT for Abstracts was also associated with better scores.

As noted by the authors, the abstract may be the only part of a research paper read by a busy clinician, making it vital that it is adequately detailed. The authors call on more journals to lead the way, endorsing CONSORT for Abstracts to drive up adherence to this important guidance.

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Do you follow CONSORT for Abstracts guidance when writing abstracts for randomised controlled trials?

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