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Evaluation of "Spin" in the Abstracts of Randomized Controlled Trial Reports in Cardiology.

CONTEXT: The misrepresentation and distortion of research findings, known as "spin," has been shown to affect clinical decision making. Spin has been found in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in various fields of medicine.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the abstracts of RCTs found in the cardiology literature for spin.

METHODS: The authors searched PubMed using a specific string of keywords to identify previously published articles documenting RCTs of cardiovascular treatments in humans. To be included, a cardiology trial had to randomize humans to an intervention, statistically compare 2 or more groups, and have a nonsignificant primary endpoint. Records were excluded if they did not meet these criteria. Data extraction was double-blinded and done using a pilot-tested Google Form. Items extracted from each trial included the title, journal, funding source, comparator arm, primary endpoint, statistical analysis of the primary endpoint, secondary endpoints, statistical analysis of secondary endpoints, and trial registration number (if reported). The 2 authors who screened records for inclusion were then asked whether spin was present in the abstract of the randomized trial. Spin in the title, abstract results, abstract conclusions, and selection of reported endpoints were considered.

RESULTS: Of the 651 PubMed citations retrieved by our search string, 194 RCTs with a clearly defined primary endpoint were identified. Of these 194 RCTs, 66 trials contained nonsignificant primary endpoints and were evaluated for spin. Of these trials, spin was identified in 18 of the 66 abstracts (27.3%).

CONCLUSIONS: Spin was present in our sample of cardiology RCTs. Spin may influence clinical decision making by creating false impressions of the true validity of a drug or intervention.

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