Background: We aimed to determine if specialist journals implement specific Consolidated Standards for Reporting Trials (CONSORT) recommendations to the same extent as general medical journals.
Methods: Analysis of random controlled trials (RCTs) in five general medical journals (n=100) and 10 specialist journals (n=100), all endorsing CONSORT. We evaluated the likelihood of reporting important methodologic criteria. Analyses controlled for the nested effect of journal within each journal type.
Results: General medical journals published, on average, more CONSORT items per RCT than specialist journals (7.9 [SD 1.8] vs. 6.5 [SD 2.2] out of 11 possible items, P=.02). When compared with specialist journals, RCTs in general medical journals published a participant flow diagram more frequently (83 vs. 42%, odds ratio [OR] 6.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.4-12.9) and more likely to report the method of randomization (78 vs. 55%, OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.5-5.3) and allocation concealment (48 vs. 26%, OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.4-4.7); they were less likely to publish RCTs reporting adverse events (58 vs. 78%, OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.2-0.7). Both page length and impact factor were weakly associated with number of CONSORT items reported.
Conclusion: General medical and specialist journals that endorse CONSORT do not enforce reporting issues consistently, with specialty journals lagging behind general medical journals.