BACKGROUND: The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement aims to improve transparent reporting of randomised clinical trials. It comprises a participant flow diagram with the reporting of essential numbers for enrolment, allocation and analyses. We aimed to quantify the use of participant flow diagrams in randomised clinical trials on postoperative pain management after total hip and knee arthroplasty.
METHODS: We searched PubMed, Embase and CENTRAL up till January 2020. The primary outcome was the proportion of trials with adequate reporting of participant flow diagrams, defined as reporting of number of participants screened for eligibility, randomised and included in the primary analysis. Secondary outcomes were recruitment (randomised:screened) and retention (analysed:randomised) rates, reporting of a statistical strategy, reasons for exclusion from the primary analysis and handling of missing outcome data. Trends over time were assessed with statistical process control.
RESULTS: Of the 570 included trials, we found adequate reporting in 240 (42%). Reporting with participant flow diagram increased significantly over time. Median recruitment was 73% (IQR 44-91%), and retention was 97% (IQR 93-100%). These rates did not change over time. Trials with adequate reporting of participant flow were more likely to report a statistical strategy (41% vs 8%), reasons for post-randomisation exclusions (100% vs 55%) and handling of missing outcome data (14% vs 6%).
CONCLUSIONS: Adherence to participant flow diagrams for RCTs has increased significantly over time. Still, there is room for improvement of adequate reporting of flow diagrams, to increase transparency of trials details.