Purpose: To use the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement checklist to critically evaluate the change in quality of observational trial reporting in the Journal of Hand Surgery American between 2005 and 2011. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of observational studies published in the Journal of Hand Surgery American was designed to sample 2 6-month periods of publication (March 2005 to August 2005 and June 2011 to November 2011). Fifty-one items were extracted from the STROBE statement for evaluation. Overall STROBE compliance rates for articles and specific checklist items were determined. Final compliance percentages from each period were compared by Student t-testing. Changes in item compliance over time were quantified. Results: Overall compliance with the STROBE statement was 38% (range, 10%-54%) in 2005 and 58% (range, 39%-85%) for 2011 manuscripts representing a significant improvement. Seventy-five percent or greater of articles (2005/2011) provided the explicit reporting of background (100%/97%), follow-up time (85%/94%), overall interpretation of data (100%/94%), and results of similar studies (95%/89%). Twenty-five percent or less of articles provided the study design in the abstract (10%/20%), a clear description of the study's setting (10%/23%), the handling of missing data (0%/6%), the potential directions of bias (5%/11%), and the use of a power analysis (0%/17%). Eighty-six percent (44/51) of items were more frequently satisfied in 2011 articles than in 2005 publications. Absolute increases in compliance rates of 40% or greater were noted in 10 items (20%) with no worsening in compliance for an individual item over 6%. Conclusions: The overall quality of the reporting of observational trials in the Journal of Hand Surgery American improved from 2005 to 2011. Current observational trials in hand surgery could still benefit from increased reporting of methodological details including the use of power analyses, the handling of missing data, and consideration of potential bias. Level of evidence: Diagnostic III.
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- cohort studies
- observational studies