Disclosure of Financial Conflicts of Interest in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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Recent articles in the scientific literature have expressed concerns about financial conflicts of interest in the profession of medicine in general and the specialty of plastic surgery in particular. Disclosure of financial ties to industry has been regarded as an address of a possible bias. The policies of medical journals places responsibility on authors for self-reporting of financial conflicts of interest, yet underreporting of conflicts of interest has occurred. The investigative hypothesis was that authors in the plastic surgery literature, in particular, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, underreported financial conflicts of interest.


A review of articles published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery from July of 2015 through April of 2016 for author disclosures was accomplished. The disclosure statements were compared to the information available in the Open Payments database for 2015. The lack of disclosure on the part of an author, when present, was individually examined for relevance of the corporate conflicts of interest to the subject matter of the involved article.


A total of 302 articles authored by 1262 individuals were reviewed. One hundred thirty-nine (45.5 percent) had neither a disclosed nor an actual conflict of interest. In 61 articles (20.2 percent), one or more authors disclosed; 105 articles (34.8 percent) did not provide disclosure of a financial conflict of interest. In assessment of relevance, 10 undisclosed conflicts of interest (9.5 percent) were determined relevant, and one-third of that total were non–plastic surgeons.


Nondisclosure of financial conflicts of interest is common, but only a small minority pose a potential for harm from bias.

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