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J Neurosurg. 2011 Feb;114(2):280-5. doi: 10.3171/2010.8.JNS091770. Epub 2010 Nov 5.

Standards for reporting randomized controlled trials in neurosurgery.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.



The Consolidated Standards for Reporting of Trials (CONSORT) criteria were published in 1996 to standardize the reporting and improve the quality of clinical trials. Despite having been endorsed by major medical journals and shown to improve the quality of reported trials, neurosurgical journals have yet to formally adopt these reporting criteria. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the quality and reporting of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in neurosurgery and the factors that may affect the quality of reported trials.


The authors evaluated all neurosurgical RCTs published in 2006 and 2007 in the principal neurosurgical journals (Journal of Neurosurgery; Neurosurgery; Surgical Neurology; Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry; and Acta Neurochirurgica) and in 3 leading general medical journals (Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine). Randomized controlled trials that addressed operative decision making or the treatment of neurosurgical patients were included in this analysis. The RCT quality was evaluated using the Jadad score and the CONSORT checklist.


In 2006 and 2007, 27 RCTs relevant to intracranial neurosurgery were reported. Of these trials, only 59% had a Jadad score ≥ 3. The 3 major medical journals all endorsed the CONSORT guidelines, while none of the neurosurgical journals have adopted these guidelines. Randomized controlled trials published in the 3 major medical journals had a significantly higher mean CONSORT score (mean 41, range 39-44) compared with those published in neurosurgical journals (mean 26.4, range 17-38; p < 0.0001). Jadad scores were also significantly higher for the major medical journals (mean 3.42, range 2-5) than neurosurgical journals (mean 2.45, range 1-5; p = 0.05).


Despite the growing volume of RCTs in neurosurgery, the quality of reporting of these trials remains suboptimal, especially in the neurosurgical journals. Improved awareness of the CONSORT guidelines by journal editors, reviewers, and authors of these papers could improve the methodology and reporting of RCTs in neurosurgery.

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