Background: Clear, transparent and sufficiently detailed abstracts of randomized trials (RCTs), published in journal articles are important because readers will often base their initial assessment of a trial on such information. However, little is known about the quality of reporting in abstracts of RCTs published in medical journals in China.
Methods: We identified RCTs abstracts from 5 five leading Chinese medical journals published between 1998 and 2007 and indexed in MEDLINE. We assessed the quality of reporting of these abstracts based on the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) abstract checklist. We also sought to identify whether any differences exist in reporting between the Chinese and English language version of the same abstract.
Results: We identified 332 RCT abstracts eligible for examination. Overall, the abstracts we examined reported 0-8 items as designated in the CONSORT checklist. On average, three items were reported per abstract. Details of the interventions (288/332; 87%), the number of participants randomized (216/332; 65%) and study objectives (109/332; 33%) were the top three items reported. Only two RCT abstracts reported details of trial registration, no abstracts reported the method of allocation concealment and only one mentioned specifically who was blinded. In terms of the proportion of RCT abstracts fulfilling a criterion, the absolute difference (percentage points) between the Chinese and English abstracts was 10% (ranging from 0 to 25%) on average, per item.
Conclusions: The quality of reporting in abstracts of RCTs published in Chinese medical journals needs to be improved. We hope that the introduction and endorsement of the CONSORT for Abstracts guidelines by journals reporting RCTs will lead to improvements in the quality of reporting.