Overwhelming evidence now indicates that the quality of reporting of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) is less than optimal. Recent methodologic analyses indicate that inadequate reporting and design are associated with biased estimates of treatment effects. Such systematic error is seriously damaging to RCTs, which boast the elimination of systematic error as their primary hallmark. Systematic error in RCTs reflects poor science, and poor science threatens proper ethical standards.
A group of scientists and editors developed the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) statement to improve the quality of reporting of RCTs. The statement consists of a checklist and flow diagram that authors can use for reporting an RCT. Many leading medical journals and major international editorial groups have adopted the CONSORT statement. The CONSORT statement facilitates critical appraisal and interpretation of RCTs by providing guidance to authors about how to improve the reporting of their trials.
This explanatory and elaboration document is intended to enhance the use, understanding, and dissemination of the CONSORT statement. The meaning and rationale for each checklist item are presented. For most items, at least one published example of good reporting and, where possible, references to relevant empirical studies are provided. Several examples of flow diagrams are included.
The CONSORT statement, this explanatory and elaboration document, and the associated Web site (www.consort-statement.org) should be helpful resources to improve reporting of randomized trials.
Throughout the text, terms marked with an asterisk are defined at end of text.