Background: Results produced from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) help guide clinical decision making and health policy. Therefore, it is essential that RCT outcomes— including harms (eg, adverse events)—are adequately reported such that clinicians, patients, and policy makers are equipped with all necessary information to complete risk-benefit assessment of the RCT's intervention. Here, we evaluated the quality of reporting of harms (eg, adverse events) in RCTs cited as supporting evidence for recommendations in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Management of Rotator Cuff Injuries clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) using the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Extension for Harms Checklist.
Methods: To quantify adherence to CONSORT Extension for Harms items, each RCT was screened for pertinent information satisfying each checklist item. Screening of CPG reference sections for RCTs underpinning CPG recommendations, as well as data extraction from each of the included RCTs, was performed in a blind and duplicate manner. Descriptive statistics—including frequencies, percentages, and 95% confidence intervals—were used to summarize overall percent adherence to checklist items. A linear regression model assessed the relationship of CONSORT Harms reporting over time.
Results: Ninety-nine RCTs were included in our final sample. Fifty-seven RCTs (of 99; 57.6%) were conducted at a single center. Common funding sources included private (nonindustry) (17/99; 17.2%), private (industry) (8/99; 8.1%), and public (7/99; 7.1%) sources. Sample size for each trial most often consisted of <50 participants (29/99; 29.3%) or 51-100 participants (50/99; 50.5%). The average number of CONSORT Extension for Harms items adequately reported across all included RCTs was 5.7 (of 18; 31.7%). None of the included trials reported all 18 items. Twenty-six RCTs (of 99; 26.3%) adequately reported ≥50% of eligible checklist items. Fifty-nine RCTs (of 99; 59.6%) adequately reported ≤33% of eligible checklist items. Items with ≥50% adherence included item 2, item 7a, and item 8a. Items with ≤20% adherence included item 3b, item 4d, and item 5. Results from our linear regression demonstrated a slight, yet nonsignificant, improvement in adherence to the Harms Extension over time (R2 = 0.009; P = .407).
Conclusions: Our results illustrate the poor state of harms reporting within RCTs cited as supporting evidence for the AAOS Management of Rotator Cuff Injuries CPG. Efforts to address these gaps in reporting are warranted, as complete knowledge of potential harms is critical to patients, clinicians, and health policy makers when determining best practice decisions in orthopedic surgery.
- Harms Reporting
- CONSORT Harms
- Clinical Practice