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Quality of reporting in abstracts of RCTs published in emergency medicine journals: a systematic survey of the literature suggests we can do better
  1. Federico Germini1,2,3,
  2. Maura Marcucci1,4,
  3. Marta Fedele5,
  4. Maria Giulia Galli6,
  5. Tevin Heath1,
  6. Lawrence Mbuagbaw1,7,
  7. Valentina Salvatori8,
  8. Giacomo Veronese9,
  9. Andrew Worster2,
  10. Lehana Thabane1,4,7,10,11
  1. 1 Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact (HEI), McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Health Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
  4. 4 Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5 Unità Operativa Complessa di Medicina e Chirurgia d’Accettazione e d’Urgenza, Ospedale Renzetti, Asl Lanciano Vasto Chieti, Lanciano, Italy
  6. 6 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Parma, Parma, Italy
  7. 7 Biostatistics Unit, Father Sean O’Sullivan Research Centre, St Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  8. 8 General Practitioner Course, Regione Marche - Servizio Sanità, Ancona, Italy
  9. 9 School of Medicine and Surgery, University of Milano-Bicocca, Monza, Italy
  10. 10 Departments of Paediatrics and Anaesthesia, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  11. 11 Centre for Evaluation of Medicine, St Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Federico Germini, Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, Hamilton ON L8S4K1, Canada; germinif{at}


Objective We investigated the association between the publication of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials extension for abstracts (CONSORT-EA) and other variables of interest on the quality of reporting of abstracts of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) published in emergency medicine (EM) journals.

Methods We performed a survey of the literature, comparing the quality of reporting before (2005–2007) with after (2014–2015) the publication of the dedicated CONSORT-EA in 2008. The quality of reporting was measured as the sum of items of the CONSORT-EA checklist reported in each abstract, ranging from 0 to 15. The main explanatory variable was the period of publication: pre-CONSORT-EA versus post-CONSORT-EA public. Other explanatory variables were journal’s endorsement of the CONSORT statement, number of centres participating in the study, study’s sample size, type of intervention, significance of results, source of funding and study setting. We analysed the data using generalised estimation equations, performing a univariate and a multivariable analysis.

Results We retrieved 844 articles, and randomly selected 60 per period for review, after stratifying for journal. The mean (SD) number of items reported was 6.4 (1.9) in the period before and 6.9 (1.8) in the period after the publication of the CONSORT-EA, with an adjusted mean difference (aMD) of 0.47 (95% CI −0.13 to 1.06). Abstracts of trials of pharmacological interventions had a significantly larger mean number of reported items than those of trials of non-pharmacological interventions (aMD 1.59; 95% CI 0.94 to 2.24).

Conclusions The quality of reporting in abstracts of RCTs published in EM journals is low and was not significantly impacted by the publication of a dedicated CONSORT-EA.

  • research
  • methods
  • publication
  • quality

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  • Contributors FG is the guarantor of the review and drafted the manuscript. FG, MM, MF, MGG, LM, VS, GV, AW and LT contributed to the development of the selection criteria and data extraction criteria. FG developed the search strategy and performed the statistical analysis. FG, MF, MGG, VS and GV screened the article for inclusion, and FG, MF, MGG, VS, GV and TH extracted the data. MM, LM and LT provided statistical expertise. AW provided expertise on EM literature, LM and LT provided expertise on quality of reporting. All authors read, provided feedback and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding No funding was obtained for this study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note This study was not registered. The study protocol was published before its execution.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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