Reporting matters in surgery research

Reporting guidelines and other guidance

There is much evidence in all areas of medicine including surgery that research is poorly reported often making it unusable. The EQUATOR Network is an international initiative aiming to enhance the value of medical research literature by promoting transparent and accurate research reporting. Through comprehensive literature searching they maintain an up to date open library of all reporting guidelines in health research.

Reporting guidelines are statements that provide advice on how to report research methods and findings. Usually in the form of a checklist, flow diagram or explicit text, they specify a minimum set of items required for a clear and transparent account of what was done and what was found in a research study, reflecting in particular issues that might introduce bias into the research.  The most widely recognised guidelines are based on the available evidence and reflect consensus opinion of experts in a particular field, including research methodologists and journal editors.  Reporting guidelines complement advice on scientific writing, which concentrates on the basic writing principles and styles of research reports and publications, and journals’ instructions to authors.

Please look at the EQUATOR website to find the relevant guidance and tools on how to report your research in surgery. There is also a searchable database which identifies surgery specific guidance:

Studies of reporting quality and publication trends in surgery

Below we list many interesting papers that have assessed the reporting quality of surgical research studies. We have not included papers assessing reporting quality in broader complex interventions such as; acupuncture, herbal medicines, TMB (therapeutic massage), vaccines, post-op analgesia, psychiatry, public health or nursing. We also exclude papers assessing RCT reporting quality sampled in general medical journals.


Fleming PS, Seehra J, Polychronopoulou A, Fedorowicz Z, Pandis N. A PRISMA  assessment of the reporting quality of systematic reviews in orthodontics. Angle  Orthod. 2013 Jan;83(1):158-63. doi: 10.2319/032612-251.1. Epub 2012 Jun 21.
PubMed PMID: 22720835

Fowler AJ, Agha RA. Poor reporting of randomized controlled trials in solid organ transplantation is indicative of a wider problem in surgery. Transpl Int. 2013 Sep;26(9):e87. doi: 10.1111/tri.12126. Epub 2013 May 31. PubMed PMID: 23725017

Hannink G, Gooszen HG, Rovers MM. Comparison of registered and published primary outcomes in randomized clinical trials of surgical interventions. Ann Surg. 2013 May;257(5):818-23. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182864fa3. PubMed PMID: 23407296

Lee SY, Teoh PJ, Camm CF, Agha RA. Compliance of randomized controlled trials in trauma surgery with the CONSORT statement. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Oct;75(4):562-72. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182a5399e. PubMed PMID: 24064867

Liu LQ, Morris PJ, Pengel LH. Compliance to the CONSORT statement of randomized controlled trials in solid organ transplantation: a 3-year overview. Transpl Int. 2013 Mar;26(3):300-6. doi: 10.1111/tri.12034. Epub 2013 Jan 2. Review. PubMed PMID: 23279054

Nasir AA, Lakhoo K. Evaluation of clinical research reporting in African Journal of Paediatric Surgery. Afr J Paediatr Surg. 2013 Jan-Apr;10(1):13-6. doi: 10.4103/0189-6725.109376. PubMed PMID: 23519851

Savithra P, Nagesh LS. Have CONSORT guidelines improved the quality of reporting of randomised controlled trials published in public health dentistry journals? Oral Health Prev Dent. 2013;11(2):95-103. doi: 10.3290/j.ohpd.a29359. PubMed PMID: 23534035

Seehra J, Fleming PS, Polychronopoulou A, Pandis N. Reporting completeness of
abstracts of systematic reviews published in leading dental specialty journals. Eur J Oral Sci. 2013 Apr;121(2):57-62. doi: 10.1111/eos.12027. Epub 2013 Mar 4.
PubMed PMID: 23489893

Sheffler LC, Yoo B, Bhandari M, Ferguson T. Observational studies in orthopaedic surgery: the STROBE statement as a tool for transparent reporting. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2013 Feb 6;95(3):e14(1-12). doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.00484. PubMed  PMID: 23389794

Sorensen AA, Wojahn RD, Manske MC, Calfee RP. Using the Strengthening the
Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement to assess
reporting of observational trials in hand surgery. J Hand Surg Am. 2013 Aug;38(8):1584-9.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2013.05.008. Epub 2013 Jul 8. PubMed PMID: 23845586

van Oldenrijk J, van Berkel Y, Kerkhoffs GM, Bhandari M, Poolman RW. Do authors report surgical expertise in open spine surgery related randomized controlled trials? A systematic review on quality of reporting. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 May 1;38(10):857-64. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827ecb1c. PubMed PMID: 23629454


Ayeni O, Dickson L, Ignacy TA, Thoma A. A systematic review of power and sample size reporting in randomized controlled trials within plastic surgery. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2012 Jul;130(1):78e-86e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318254b1d1. Review. PubMed PMID: 22743957

Blencowe NS, McNair AG, Davis CR, Brookes ST, Blazeby JM. Standards of outcome
reporting in surgical oncology: a case study in esophageal cancer. Ann Surg Oncol. 2012 Dec;19(13):4012-8. doi: 10.1245/s10434-012-2497-x. Epub 2012 Jul 21.
PubMed PMID: 22820935

Brölmann FE, Groenewold MD, Spijker R, van der Hage JA, Ubbink DT, Vermeulen H. Does evidence permeate all surgical areas equally? Publication trends in wound care compared to breast cancer care: a longitudinal trend analysis. World J Surg. 2012 Sep;36(9):2021-7. doi: 10.1007/s00268-012-1599-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 22526043

Gray R, Sullivan M, Altman DG, Gordon-Weeks AN. Adherence of trials of operative intervention to the CONSORT statement extension for non-pharmacological treatments: a comparative before and after study. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2012 Sep;94(6):388-94. doi: 10.1308/003588412X13171221592339. PubMed PMID: 22943327

Yoon U, Knobloch K. Assessment of reporting quality of conference abstracts in sports injury prevention according to CONSORT and STROBE criteria and their subsequent publication rate as full papers. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2012 Apr  11;12:47. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-12-47. PubMed PMID: 22494412

Yoon U, Knobloch K. Quality of reporting in sports injury prevention abstracts according to the CONSORT and STROBE criteria: an analysis of the World Congress of Sports Injury Prevention in 2005 and 2008. Br J Sports Med. 2012 Mar;46(3):202-6. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.053876. Epub 2009 Jul 26. PubMed PMID: 19656768


Kanaan Z, Galandiuk S, Abby M, Shannon KV, Dajani D, Hicks N, Rai SN. The value of lesser-impact-factor surgical journals as a source of negative and inconclusive  outcomes reporting. Ann Surg. 2011 Mar;253(3):619-23. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e31820d9b04. PubMed PMID: 21270633

Knobloch K, Vogt PM. Adherence to CONSORT abstract reporting suggestions in
surgical randomized-controlled trials published in Annals of Surgery. Ann Surg. 2011 Sep;254(3):546; author reply 546-7. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e31822ad829. PubMed PMID: 21795966

Knobloch K, Yoon U, Rennekampff HO, Vogt PM. Quality of reporting according to the CONSORT, STROBE and Timmer instrument at the American Burn Association (ABA) annual meetings 2000 and 2008. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2011 Nov 29;11:161. doi:
10.1186/1471-2288-11-161. PubMed PMID: 22126516

Knobloch K, Yoon U, Vogt PM. Observational studies and STROBE reporting quality in plastic surgical conference abstracts. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011 Aug;128(2):108e-109e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31821ef408. PubMed PMID: 21788824

Knobloch K, Yoon U, Vogt PM. Randomized controlled trials and consolidated  standards of reporting trials reporting quality: an evidence-based analysis of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Burn Association, and American
Society for Surgery of the Hand conference meetings. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011
Jun;127(6):175e-6e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3182131af9. PubMed PMID: 21617447

Knobloch K, Yoon U, Vogt PM. Endorsement of the CONSORT and STROBE statements for plastic surgical clinical trials. Ann Plast Surg. 2011 Mar;66(3):321. doi:
10.1097/SAP.0b013e3181d3f29b. PubMed PMID: 21317574

Orso IR, Pereira JC, D’Albuquerque LA, Cecconello I, Jukemura J. Critical analysis of the use of statistical tests in Brazilian publications related to digestive tract surgery. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2011 Jan-Feb;57(1):35-41. PubMed PMID: 21390457

Vere J, Joshi R. Quality assessment of randomised controlled trials of dental implant surgery and prosthodontics published from 2004 to 2008: a systematic review. Clin Oral Implants Res. 2011 Dec;22(12):1338-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0501.2010.02124.x. Epub 2011 Mar 21. Review. PubMed PMID: 21418331

Wynne KE, Simpson BJ, Berman L, Rangel SJ, Grosfeld JL, Moss RL. Results of a
longitudinal study of rigorous manuscript submission guidelines designed to  improve the quality of clinical research reporting in a peer-reviewed surgical journal. J Pediatr Surg. 2011 Jan;46(1):131-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2010.09.077. Review. PubMed PMID: 21238654

Xu CC, Cote DWXu CC, Côté DW, Chowdhury RH, Morrissey AT, Ansari K. Trends in level of evidence in facial plastic surgery research. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011 Apr;127(4):1499-504. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318208d2c8. PubMed PMID: 21187806


Akerman L, Hodak E, Pavlovsky L, Mimouni FB, David M, Mimouni D. Trends in dermatologic surgery research over the past decade. Eur J Dermatol. 2010 Mar-Apr;20(2):196-9. doi: 10.1684/ejd.2010.0880. Epub 2010 Feb 19. PubMed PMID:

Donovan AJ, Tompkins RK. Surgical research publication in a selection of research and surgical specialty journals. Surgery. 2010 Jan;147(1):5-12. doi:  10.1016/j.surg.2009.07.005. Epub 2009 Sep 20. PubMed PMID: 19767050

Flint HE, Harrison JE. How well do reports of clinical trials in the orthodontic literature comply with the CONSORT statement? J Orthod. 2010 Dec;37(4):250-61. doi: 10.1179/14653121043191. PubMed PMID: 21186305

Krupski TL. Standardization of reporting surgical complications–are we ready? J Urol. 2010 May;183(5):1671-2. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2010.02.2374. Epub 2010 Mar 17. PubMed PMID: 20299062

Pitak-Arnnop P, Sader R, Rapidis AD, Dhanuthai K, Bauer U, Herve C, Hemprich  A. Publication bias in oral and maxillofacial surgery journals: an observation on published controlled trials. J Craniomaxillofac Surg. 2010 Jan;38(1):4-10. doi:  10.1016/j.jcms.2009.10.005. Epub 2009 Nov 6. Erratum in: J Craniomaxillofac Surg.
2010 Oct;38(7):541. PubMed PMID: 19896857

Robertson IJ, Corrigan MA, Sheikh A, Lehane E, Hill AD. An evaluation of Irish general surgical research publications from 2000 to 2009. Surgeon. 2010 Dec;8(6):314-7. doi: 10.1016/j.surge.2010.05.007. Epub 2010 Jul 2. PubMed PMID: 20950769

Yoon U, Knobloch K, Vogt PM. Reporting and methodological quality in evidence-based medicine studies in burn surgery. Burns. 2010 Dec;36(8):1318; author reply 1317. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2010.01.021. Epub 2010 Jun 29. PubMed  PMID: 20591574


Afifi RY, Agha R, David Rosin R. Is research ethics committee approval necessary for publication of prospective surgical research studies? Int J Surg. 2009 Jun;7(3):180-1. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2009.04.008. Epub 2009 May 3. PubMed  PMID: 19398042

Brooke BS, Nathan H, Pawlik TM. Trends in the quality of highly cited surgical research over the past 20 years. Ann Surg. 2009 Jan;249(1):162-7.  doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e31819291f9. PubMed PMID: 19106693

Kashani I, Hall JL, Hall JC. Reporting of minimum clinically important differences in  surgical trials. ANZ J Surg. 2009 Apr;79(4):301-4. doi:10.1111/j.1445- 97.2009.04865.x. PubMed PMID: 19432721

Pitak-Arnnop P, Sader R, Hervé C, Dhanuthai K, Bertrand JC, Hemprich A. Reporting of ethical protection in recent oral and maxillofacial surgery research involving human subjects. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2009 Jul;38(7):707-12. doi:  10.1016/j.ijom.2009.01.018. Epub 2009 Mar 4. Review. PubMed PMID: 19264449

Reinstein DZ, Waring GO 3rd. Graphic reporting of outcomes of refractive  surgery. J Refract Surg. 2009 Nov;25(11):975-8. doi: 10.3928/1081597X-20091016-01. PubMed PMID: 19921764

Robinson PM, Menakuru S, Reed MW, Balasubramanian SP. Description and reporting of surgical data–scope for improvement? Surgeon. 2009 Feb;7(1):6-9.  PubMed PMID: 19241978

Sinha S, Sinha S, Ashby E, Jayaram R, Grocott MP. Quality of reporting in  randomized trials published in high-quality surgical journals. J Am Coll Surg. 2009 Nov;209(5):565-571.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2009.07.019. Epub 2009 Sep 11. PubMed PMID: 19854395


Ameh EA, Dauda MM, Nmadu PT. Paediatric surgical research and publications in
a developing country setting. Afr J Paediatr Surg. 2008 Jan-Jun;5(1):3-7. doi:
10.4103/0189-6725.41627. PubMed PMID: 19858654

Okike K, Kocher MS, Mehlman CT, Heckman JD, Bhandari M. Publication bias in
orthopaedic research: an analysis of scientific factors associated with publication in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American Volume). J Bone  Joint Surg Am. 2008 Mar;90(3):595-601. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.G.00279. PubMed PMID: 18310710

Taghinia AH, Liao EC, May JW Jr. Randomized controlled trials in plastic surgery: a 20-year review of reporting standards, methodologic quality, and impact. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2008 Oct;122(4):1253-63. doi:  10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181858f16. PubMed PMID: 18827662


Agha R, Cooper D, Muir G. The reporting quality of randomised controlled trials in surgery: a systematic review. Int J Surg. 2007 Dec;5(6):413-22. Epub 2007 Oct 29. Review. PubMed PMID: 18029237

Carney S. Improving the reporting quality of randomised controlled trials in surgery. Int J Surg. 2007 Dec;5(6):376. Epub 2007 Nov 17. PubMed PMID: 18063433

Yeow VK, Lee ST, Cheng JJ, Koh A, Wong HB, Machin D. Randomised clinical  trials in plastic surgery: survey of output and quality of reporting. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2007;60(8):965-6. Epub 2007 Mar 23. PubMed PMID: 17616372


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