BACKGROUND: Lack of reproducibility of preclinical studies has been identified as an impediment for translation of basic mechanistic research into effective clinical therapies. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health has revised its grant application process to require more rigorous study design, including sample size calculations, blinding procedures, and randomization steps. We hypothesized that the reporting of such metrics of study design rigor has increased over time for animal-experimental research published in anesthesia journals. METHODS: PubMed was searched for animal-experimental studies published in 2005, 2010, and 2015 in primarily English-language anesthesia journals. A total of 1466 publications were graded on the performance of sample size estimation, randomization, and blinding. Cochran-Armitage test was used to assess linear trends over time for the primary outcome of whether or not a metric was reported. Interrater agreement for each of the 3 metrics (power, randomization, and blinding) was assessed using the weighted κ coefficient in a 10% random sample of articles rerated by a second investigator blinded to the ratings of the first investigator. RESULTS: A total of 1466 manuscripts were analyzed. Reporting for all 3 metrics of experimental design rigor increased over time (2005 to 2010 to 2015): for power analysis, from 5% (27/516), to 12% (59/485), to 17% (77/465); for randomization, from 41% (213/516), to 50% (243/485), to 54% (253/465); and for blinding, from 26% (135/516), to 38% (186/485), to 47% (217/465). The weighted κ coefficients and 98.3% confidence interval indicate almost perfect agreement between the 2 raters beyond that which occurs by chance alone (power, 0.93 [0.85, 1.0], randomization, 0.91 [0.85, 0.98], and blinding, 0.90 [0.84, 0.96]). CONCLUSIONS: Our hypothesis that reported metrics of rigor in animal-experimental studies in anesthesia journals have increased during the past decade was confirmed. More consistent reporting, or explicit justification for absence, of sample size calculations, blinding techniques, and randomization procedures could better enable readers to evaluate potential sources of bias in animal-experimental research manuscripts. Future studies should assess whether such steps lead to improved translation of animal-experimental anesthesia research into successful clinical trials.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine