Number and quality of randomized controlled trials in obstetrics published in the top general medical and obstetrics and gynecology journals

Georgios Doulaveris, Kavita Vani, Gabriele Saccone, Suneet P. Chauhan, Vincenzo Berghella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: There has been an increasing number of randomized controlled trials published in obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine to reduce biases of treatment effect and to provide insights on the cause-effect of the relationship between treatment and outcomes. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to identify obstetrical randomized controlled trials published in top weekly general medical journals and monthly obstetrics and gynecology journals, to assess their quality in reporting and identify factors associated with publication in different journals. STUDY DESIGN: The 4 weekly medical journals with the highest 2019 impact factor (New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and British Medical Journal), the top 4 monthly obstetrics and gynecology journals with obstetrics-related research (American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology), and the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology Maternal-Fetal Medicine were searched for obstetrical randomized controlled trials in the years 2018 to 2020. The primary outcome was the number of obstetrical randomized controlled trials published in the obstetrics and gynecology journals vs the weekly medical journals and the percentage of trials published, overall and per journal. The secondary outcomes included the proportion of positive vs negative trials overall and per journal and the assessment of the study characteristics of published trials, including quality assessment criteria. RESULTS: Of the 4024 original research articles published in the 9 journals during the 3-year study period, 1221 (30.3%) were randomized controlled trials, with 137 (11.2%) randomized controlled trials being in obstetrics (46 in 2018, 47 in 2019, and 44 studies in 2020). Furthermore, 33 (24.1%) were published in weekly medical journals, and 104 (75.9%) were published in obstetrics and gynecology journals. The percentage of obstetrical randomized controlled trials published ranged from 1.5% to 9.6% per journal. Overall, 34.3% of obstetrical trials were statistically significant or “positive” for the primary outcome. Notably, 24.8% of the trials were retrospectively registered after the enrollment of the first study patient. Trials published in the 4 weekly medical journals enrolled significantly more patients (1801 vs 180; P<.001), received more often funding from the federal government (78.8% vs 35.6%; P<.001), and were more likely to be multicenter (90.9% vs 42.3%; P<.001), non–United States based (69.7% vs 49.0%; P=.03), and double blinded (45.5% vs 18.3%; P=.003) than trials published in the obstetrics and gynecology journals. There was no difference in study type (noninferiority vs superiority) and trial quality characteristics, including pretrial registration, ethics approval statement, informed consent statement, and adherence to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials guidelines statement between studies published in weekly medical journals and studies published in obstetrics and gynecology journals. CONCLUSION: Approximately 45 trials in obstetrics are being published every year in the highest impact journals, with one-fourth being in the weekly medical journals and the remainder in the obstetrics and gynecology journals. Only about a third of published obstetrical trials are positive. Trials published in weekly medical journals are larger, more likely to be funded by the government, multicenter, international, and double blinded. Quality metrics are similar between weekly medical journals and obstetrics and gynecology journals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100509
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics &amp; gynecology MFM
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Keywords

  • impact factor
  • maternal-fetal medicine
  • obstetrics
  • randomized controlled trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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