Quality of reporting of trial abstracts needs to be improved: using the CONSORT for abstracts to assess the four leading Chinese medical journals of traditional Chinese medicine.
Wang L., Li Y., Li J., Zhang M., Xu L., Yuan W., Wang G., Hopewell S.
BACKGROUND: Due to language limitations, the abstract of journal article may be the only way for people of non-Chinese speaking countries to know about trials in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). However, little is known about the reporting quality of these trial abstracts. Our study is to assess the reporting quality of abstracts of randomized controlled trials (RCT) published in four leading Chinese medical journals of TCM, and to identify any differences in reporting between the Chinese and English version of the same abstract publication. METHOD: Two reviewers hand-searched the Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, the China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica and the Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion for all abstracts of RCTs published between 2006 and 2007. Two reviewers independently assessed the reporting quality of the Chinese and English version of all eligible abstracts based on a modified version of the CONSORT for reporting randomised trials in journal and conference abstracts (CONSORT for abstracts). RESULTS: We identified a total of 345 RCTs of TCM with both a Chinese and English abstract. More than half of Chinese abstracts reported details of the trial participants (68%; 234/345), control group intervention (52%; 179/345), the number of participants randomized (73%; 253/345) and benefits when interpreting the trial results (55%; 190/345). Reporting of methodological quality or key features of trial design and trial results were poor; only 2% (7/345) included details of the trial design, 3% (11/345) defined the primary outcome, 5% (17/345) described the methods of random sequence generation, and only 4% (13/345) reported the number of participants analyzed. No abstracts provided details on allocation concealment and trial registration. The percentage agreement in reporting (between the Chinese and English version of the same abstract) ranged from 84% to 100% across individual checklist item. CONCLUSION: The reporting quality of abstracts of RCTs published in these four TCM journals needs to be improved. Since none of the four journals adopted CONSORT for Abstracts, we hope that the introduction and adoption of CONSORT for Abstracts by TCM journals will lead to an improvement in reporting quality.