Research abstracts are frequently referenced in orthopaedic textbooks
and influence orthopaedic care. However, little is known about the
quality of information provided in the abstracts, the frequency
of publication of complete papers after presentation of abstracts,
or any discrepancies between abstracts and published papers. The
objective of this study was to determine the quality of information
provided in orthopaedic abstracts, rates of publication of full-text
articles after presentation of abstracts, predictors of publication
of full-text articles, and consistency between abstracts and full-text
We retrieved all abstracts from the 1996 scientific program of the
sixty-third Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic
Surgeons. For each abstract, we recorded the completeness of reporting
and key features of the study design, conduct, analysis, and interpretation.
A computerized Medline and PubMed search established whether the
abstract had been followed by publication of a full-text article.
Finally, we evaluated the consistency of reporting between abstracts and
The program included 465 abstracts, 66% of which were on prognostic
studies. All abstracts described the study design, and 70.7% of
the designs were observational. Key methodological issues were reported
in less than half of the abstracts, and information on data analysis
was reported in <15%. One hundred and fifty-nine (34%) of the
465 abstracts were followed by publication of a full-text article.
The mean time to publication (and standard deviation) was 17.6 ±;
12 months (range, one to fifty-six months). Inconsistencies between
the abstract and the full-text article included the primary outcome
measure, which differed 14% of the time, and the results, which
differed 19% of the time.
Two-thirds of the orthopaedic abstracts in this sample were not
followed by publication of a full-text paper. The overall quality
of reporting in abstracts proved inadequate, and inconsistencies
between the final published paper and the original abstract occurred
frequently. The routine use of abstracts as a guide to orthopaedic
practice needs to be reconsidered.