Quality of pilot trial abstracts in heart failure is suboptimal : a systematic survey

Isiguzo, Godsent C. ; Zunza, Moleen ; Chirehwa, Maxwell ; Mayosi, Bongani M. ; Thabane, Lehana (2018-05-31)

CITATION: Isiguzo, G. C., et al. 2018. Quality of pilot trial abstracts in heart failure is suboptimal : a systematic survey. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 4:107, doi:10.1186/s40814-018-0302-8.

The original publication is available at https://pilotfeasibilitystudies.biomedcentral.com


Background: Pilot trials are miniature researches carried out with the sole aim of acting as the precursor for larger more definitive studies. Abstracts are used to summarize and introduce the findings to the reading audience. There is substantive empirical evidence showing that abstracts, despite their important roles, are not informative enough, lacking the necessary details. This systematic survey was designed to assess the quality of reporting of heart failure pilot trial abstracts. The quality of reporting was defined as the completeness of reporting based on adherence to the CONSORT extension for reporting of pilot trial abstracts. We also identified factors associated with reporting quality. Methods: We searched MEDLINE (PubMed), Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Scopus, and African-wide information databases for abstracts from heart failure pilot trials in humans published from 1 January 1990 to 30 November 2016. These were assessed to determine the extent of adherence to CONSORT extension checklist for reporting of abstracts of pilot trials. We screened identified studies for inclusion based on title and abstract. Data were independently extracted by two reviewers using the checklist. We used regression analysis to assess the association between completeness of reporting (measured as the number of items in the CONSORT extension checklist for reporting of abstracts in pilot trials contained in each abstract) and factors influencing the quality of the reports. Results: Two hundred and twenty-eight (228) articles were retrieved, of which 92 met the inclusion criteria. The mean CONSORT extension score was 8.3/16 (standard deviation 1.7); the least reported items were the source of funding (1% [1/92]), trial registration (13% [12/92]), randomization sequence (13% [12/92]), number randomized to each arm (16% [15/92]), and number analyzed in each arm (16% [15/92]). Multivariable regression analysis showed that pharmacological intervention pilot trials [incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 0.88; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.81–0.97] were significantly associated with better reporting. Other factors such as structured abstract (IRR = 1.10; 95% CI, 0.99–1.23) and CONSORT endorsement (IRR = 1.10; 95% CI, 0.99–1.23) only showed minimal relationship with better reporting quality. Conclusion: The quality of reporting of abstracts of heart failure pilot trials was suboptimal. Pharmacological intervention was significantly associated with better reporting. These findings are consistent with previous research on reporting of trials.

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