Graphics and statistics for cardiology: designing effective tables for presentation and publication

Heart. 2018 Feb;104(3):192-200. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2017-311581. Epub 2017 Oct 13.


Research is of little use if its results are not effectively communicated. Data visualised in tables (and graphs) are key components in any scientific report, but their design leaves much to be desired. This article focuses on table design, following two general principles: clear vision and clear understanding. Clear vision is achieved by maximising the signal to noise ratio. In a table, the signal is the data in the form of numbers, and the noise is the support structure necessary to interpret the numbers. Clear understanding is achieved when the story in the data is told effectively, through organisation of the data and use of text. These principles are illustrated by original and improved tables from recent publications. Two special cases are discussed separately: tables produced by the pharmaceutical industry (in clinical study reports and reports to data safety monitoring boards), and study flow diagrams as proposed by the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses initiatives.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Medical Education; Statistics And Study Design.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / standards
  • Cardiology / standards*
  • Communication
  • Data Display / standards*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Documentation / standards
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Publishing / standards*