Risk of bias assessment of randomised controlled trials in high-impact ophthalmology journals and general medical journals: a systematic review

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Evidence-based treatments in ophthalmology are often based on the results of randomised controlled trials. Biased conclusions from randomised controlled trials may lead to inappropriate management recommendations. This systematic review investigates the prevalence of bias risk in randomised controlled trials published in high-impact ophthalmology journals and ophthalmology trials from general medical journals. Using Ovid MEDLINE, randomised controlled trials in the top 10 high-impact ophthalmology journals in 2015 were systematically identified and critically appraised for the prevalence of bias risk. Included randomised controlled trials were assessed in all domains of bias as defined by the Cochrane Collaboration. In addition, the prevalence of conflict of interest and industry sponsorship was investigated. A comparison with ophthalmology articles from high-impact general medical journals was performed. Of the 259 records that were screened from ophthalmology-specific journals, 119 trials met all inclusion criteria and were critically appraised. In total, 29.4% of domains had an unclear risk, 13.8% had a high risk and 56.8% had a low risk of bias. In comparison, ophthalmology articles from general medical journals had a lower prevalence of unclear risk (17.1%), higher prevalence of high risk (21.9%) and a higher prevalence of low risk domains (61.9%). Furthermore, 64.7% of critically appraised trials from ophthalmology-specific journals did not report any conflicts of interest, while 70.6% did not report an industry sponsor of their trial. In closing, it is essential that authors, peer reviewers and readers closely follow published risk of bias guidelines.

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