Progress on core outcome sets for critical care research

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Purpose of review

Appropriate selection and definition of outcome measures are essential for clinical trials to be maximally informative. Core outcome sets (an agreed, standardized collection of outcomes measured and reported in all trials for a specific clinical area) were developed due to established inconsistencies in trial outcome selection. This review discusses the rationale for, and methods of, core outcome set development, as well as current initiatives in critical care.

Recent findings

Recent systematic reviews of reported outcomes and measurement instruments relevant to the critically ill highlight inconsistencies in outcome selection, definition, and measurement, thus establishing the need for core outcome sets. Current critical care initiatives include development of core outcome sets for trials aimed at reducing mechanical ventilation duration; rehabilitation following critical illness; long-term outcomes in acute respiratory failure; and epidemic and pandemic studies of severe acute respiratory infection.


Development and utilization of core outcome sets for studies relevant to the critically ill is in its infancy compared to other specialties. Notwithstanding, core outcome set development frameworks and guidelines are available, several sets are in various stages of development, and there is strong support from international investigator-led collaborations including the International Forum for Acute Care Trialists.

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