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Open Access Correspondence

An evaluation of the quality of statistical design and analysis of published medical research: results from a systematic survey of general orthopaedic journals

Nick R Parsons1*, Charlotte L Price2, Richard Hiskens3, Juul Achten1 and Matthew L Costa1

Author Affiliations

1 Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV2 2DX, UK

2 Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Group, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, Uk

3 University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, Coventry, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2012, 12:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-60

Published: 25 April 2012

Abstract

Background

The application of statistics in reported research in trauma and orthopaedic surgery has become ever more important and complex. Despite the extensive use of statistical analysis, it is still a subject which is often not conceptually well understood, resulting in clear methodological flaws and inadequate reporting in many papers.

Methods

A detailed statistical survey sampled 100 representative orthopaedic papers using a validated questionnaire that assessed the quality of the trial design and statistical analysis methods.

Results

The survey found evidence of failings in study design, statistical methodology and presentation of the results. Overall, in 17% (95% confidence interval; 10–26%) of the studies investigated the conclusions were not clearly justified by the results, in 39% (30–49%) of studies a different analysis should have been undertaken and in 17% (10–26%) a different analysis could have made a difference to the overall conclusions.

Conclusion

It is only by an improved dialogue between statistician, clinician, reviewer and journal editor that the failings in design methodology and analysis highlighted by this survey can be addressed.