Outcomes reported in high-impact surgical journals

Br J Surg. 2014 Apr;101(5):582-9. doi: 10.1002/bjs.9450. Epub 2014 Feb 26.


Background: With advances in operative technique and perioperative care, traditional endpoints such as morbidity and mortality provide an incomplete description of surgical outcomes. There is increasing emphasis on the need for patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to evaluate fully the effectiveness and quality of surgical interventions. The objective of this study was to identify the outcomes reported in clinical studies published in high-impact surgical journals and the frequency with which PROs are used.

Methods: Electronic versions of material published between 2008 and 2012 in the four highest-impact non-subspecialty surgical journals (Annals of Surgery, British Journal of Surgery (BJS), Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Surgery) were hand-searched. Clinical studies of adult patients undergoing planned abdominal, thoracic or vascular surgery were included. Reported outcomes were classified into five categories using Wilson and Cleary's conceptual model.

Results: A total of 893 articles were assessed, of which 770 were included in the analysis. Some 91·6 per cent of studies reported biological and physiological outcomes, 36·0 per cent symptoms, 13·4 per cent direct indicators of functional status, 10·6 per cent general health perception and 14·8 per cent overall quality of life (QoL). The proportion of studies with at least one PRO was 38·7 per cent overall and 73·4 per cent in BJS (P < 0·001). The proportion of studies using a formal measure of health-related QoL ranged from 8·9 per cent (JAMA Surgery) to 33·8 per cent (BJS).

Conclusion: The predominant reporting of clinical endpoints and the inconsistent use of PROs underscore the need for further research and education to enhance the applicability of these measures in specific surgical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • General Surgery / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • Patient Outcome Assessment*
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Publishing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Life