Evaluation of misrepresented findings in the abstracts of acute respiratory distress syndrome randomized trials with nonsignificant primary endpoints

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: We investigated the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) related to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) to assess the presentation and frequency of misrepresented research findings, also known as spin. METHODS: We searched PubMed (MEDLINE) for studies published from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2019. We included randomized controlled trials with an ARDS intervention and a nonsignificant primary endpoint. Trial screening and data extraction was performed on all studies independently and in duplicate. The primary endpoint was to investigate the frequency and manifestation of spin in RCT abstracts. Our secondary endpoint was to investigate associations between funding source and spin. RESULTS: Our PubMed search returned 766 articles with 37 meeting inclusion criteria. Spin was present in 14 (14/37, 37.8%; 95% CI 22.5%-55.2%) abstracts. The most common manifestations of spin were claiming benefit based on a significant secondary endpoint (6/14, 42.9%), followed by the use of 'trend' statements, such as 'trend toward significance' (2/14, 14.3%; 95% CI 1.8%-42.8%). The most common spin in abstract conclusions was in the form of claiming benefit due to a significant secondary endpoint (3/4, 75%; 95% CI 19.4%-99.4%). Our secondary endpoint did not identify a significant difference in the prevalence of spin in publicly funded (5/19, 26.3%; 95% CI 9.1%-51.2%) compared to privately funded (4/12, 33.3%; 95% CI 9.9%-65.1%) studies (p>.05). CONCLUSIONS: RCTs of ARDS interventions with nonsignificant primary endpoints often included spin in the abstract. Spin in the abstract may influence clinician appraisal and interpretation of diagnostic or treatment modalities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe clinical respiratory journal
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2020

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