Objective: To evaluate the methodological quality of published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in burn care treatment and management.
Methods: Using a predetermined search strategy we searched Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to January 2008) database to identify all English RCTs related to burn care. Full text studies identified were reviewed for key demographic and methodological characteristics. Methodological trial quality was assessed using the Jadad scale.
Results: A total of 257 studies involving 14,535 patients met the inclusion criteria. The median Jadad score was 2 (out of a best possible score of 5). Information was given in the introduction and discussion sections of most RCTs, although insufficient detail was provided on randomisation, allocation concealment, and blinding. The number of RCTs increased between 1950 and 2008 (Spearman's rho=0.6129, P<0.001), although the reporting quality did not improve over the same time period (P=0.1896) and was better in RCTs with larger sample sizes (median Jadad score, 4 vs. 2 points, P<0.0001). Methodological quality did not correlate with journal impact factor (P=0.2371).
Conclusions: The reporting standards of RCTs are highly variable and less than optimal in most cases. The advent of evidence-based medicine heralds a new approach to burns care and systematic steps are needed to improve the quality of RCTs in this field. Identifying and reviewing the existing number of RCTs not only highlights the need for burn clinicians to conduct more trials, but may also encourage burn health clinicians to consider the importance of conducting trials that follow appropriate, evidence-based standards.