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Postgrad Med J. 2006 Jan;82(963):70-2.

From presentation to publication: the natural history of orthopaedic abstracts in the United Kingdom.

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Department of Orthopaedics, Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, UK.



Up to 63% of the chapters in major orthopaedic textbooks use the results from abstracts that have been presented at international orthopaedic meetings.


Orthopaedic abstracts were reviewed that were presented at the 1997 and 1998 meetings of the British Orthopaedic Association and other specialist orthopaedic meetings. The number of abstracts that had gone on to a full text publication was assessed and changes in study design or outcome were determined.


Of the 415 abstracts 137 (33.0%) went on to full text publication. Abstracts presented at the British Orthopaedic Association were significantly more likely to go on to full text publication than abstracts from the other meetings studied. The mean time to publication was 15.6 months. Sample sizes in unpublished studies were smaller (mean 129.8 subjects compared with a mean of 191.4 subjects for published studies). Of full text papers, 19.0% differed regarding study design from the abstract presented at the initial meeting and 10.9% had published different results. Randomised controlled trials had the highest rate of later full text publication (53.6%) followed by observational studies (32.8%), basic science studies (31.4%), and case reports (6.7%).


In comparison with a study from North America, similar numbers of abstracts presented at meetings finally became published as full text articles, the abstracts had fewer authors, more often included randomised controlled trials and follow up data, and had fewer changes to the results. It is questionable whether the inclusion of such results from abstracts presented at international meetings by major orthopaedic textbooks should be undertaken before full text publication.

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