Reporting quality of stepped wedge design randomized trials: a systematic review protocol

Alex Thabane, Brittany B Dennis, Olga Gajic-Veljanoski, James Paul, Lehana Thabane
Clinical Epidemiology 2016, 8: 261-6

BACKGROUND: Stepped wedge design (SWD) is a cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) design that sequentially rolls out intervention to all clusters at varying time points. Being a relatively new design method, reporting quality has yet to be explored, and this review will seek to fill this gap in knowledge.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this review are: 1) to assess the quality of SWD trial reports based on the CONSORT guidelines or CONSORT extension to cluster RCTs; 2) to assess the completeness of reporting of SWD trial abstracts using the CONSORT extension for abstracts; 3) to assess the reporting of sample size details in SWD trial reports or protocols; 4) to assess the completeness of reporting of SWD trial protocols according to SPIRIT guidelines; 5) to assess the consistency between the trial registration information and final SWD trial reports; and 6) to assess the consistency of what is reported in the abstracts and main text of the SWD trial reports. We will also explore factors that are associated with the completeness of reporting.

METHODS: We will search MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, CINAHL, and PsycINFO for all randomized controlled trials utilizing SWD. Details from eligible papers will be extracted in duplicate. Demographic statistics obtained from the data extraction will be analyzed to answer the primary objectives pertaining to the reporting quality of several aspects of a published paper, as well as to explore possible temporal trends and consistency between abstracts, trial registration information, and final published articles.

DISCUSSION: Findings from this review will establish the reporting quality of SWD trials and inform academics and clinicians on their completeness and consistency. Results of this review will influence future trials and improve the overall quality and reporting of SWD trials.


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