A Thematic Survey on the Reporting Quality of Randomized Controlled Trials in Rehabilitation: The Case of Multiple Sclerosis

Lucia Ventura, Pedro Moreno-Navarro, Gianluca Martinez, Lucia Cugusi, David Barbado, Francisco Jose Vera-Garcia, Alon Kalron, Zeevi Dvir, Franca Deriu, Andrea Manca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Purpose: Optimal reporting is a critical element of scholarly communications. Several initiatives, such as the EQUATOR checklists, have raised authors' awareness about the importance of adequate research reports. On these premises, we aimed at appraising the reporting quality of published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) dealing with rehabilitation interventions. Given the breadth of such literature, we focused on rehabilitation for multiple sclerosis (MS), which was taken as a model of a challenging condition for all the rehabilitation professionals. A thematic methodological survey was performed to critically examine rehabilitative RCTs published in the last 2 decades in MS populations according to 3 main reporting themes: (1) basic methodological and statistical aspects; (2) reproducibility and responsiveness of measurements; and (3) clinical meaningfulness of the change. Summary of Key Points: Of the initial 526 RCTs retrieved, 370 satisfied the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. The survey revealed several sources of weakness affecting all the predefined themes: among these, 25.7% of the studies complemented the P values with the confidence interval of the change; 46.8% reported the effect size of the observed differences; 40.0% conducted power analyses to establish the sample size; 4.3% performed retest procedures to determine the outcomes' reproducibility and responsiveness; and 5.9% appraised the observed differences against thresholds for clinically meaningful change, for example, the minimal important change. Recommendations for Clinical Practice: The RCTs dealing with MS rehabilitation still suffer from incomplete reporting. Adherence to evidence-based checklists and attention to measurement issues and their impact on data interpretation can improve study design and reporting in order to truly advance the field of rehabilitation in people with MS. Video Abstract available for more insights from the authors (see the Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1 available at: http://links.lww.com/JNPT/A424).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-173
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • clinical responsiveness
  • multiple sclerosis
  • rehabilitation
  • reliability
  • research methodology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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