How completely are physiotherapy interventions described in reports of randomised trials?

Incomplete descriptions of interventions are a common problem in reports of randomised controlled trials. To date no study has evaluated the completeness of the descriptions of physiotherapy interventions.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the completeness of the descriptions of physiotherapy interventions in a random sample of reports of randomised controlled trials (RCTs).

The data for this study came from a random sample of 200 reports of RCTs from the PEDro database. The reports included full text papers written in English and published in 2013, and reporting trials with two arms. Trials evaluating any type of physiotherapy interventions and subdisciplines were included.

The methodological quality was evaluated using the PEDro scale and completeness of intervention description using the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) checklist. The proportion and 95% confidence interval were calculated for intervention and control groups, and used to present the relationship between completeness and methodological quality, and subdisciplines.

Completeness of intervention reporting in physiotherapy RCTs was poor. For intervention groups, 46 (23%) trials did not describe at least half of the items. Reporting was worse for control groups, 149 (75%) trials described less than half of the items. There was no clear difference in the completeness across subdisciplines or methodological quality.

Descriptions of interventions in physiotherapy RCTs are typically incomplete. Authors and journals should aim for more complete descriptions of interventions in physiotherapy trials.