Background: To determine the net clinical benefit of a new treatment strategy, information on both survival and patient-reported outcomes (PROs) is required. However, to make an adequately informed decision, PRO evidence should be of sufficiently high quality.
Objective: To investigate the methodological quality of PRO reporting in randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in patients with brain tumours, and to assess the proportion of studies that should impact clinical decision-making.
Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search in several databases covering January 2004 to March 2012. We selected relevant RCTs and retrieved the following data: (1) basic trial demographics and PRO characteristics, (2) quality of PRO reporting and (3) risk of bias. Studies that should impact clinical decision-making based on their methodological robustness were analysed systematically.
Results: We identified 14 RCTs, representing over 3000 glioma patients. Only two RCTs (14%) satisfied sufficiently many key methodological criteria to provide high-quality PRO evidence, and should therefore impact clinical decision-making. Important methodological limitations in other studies were lack of reporting of the extent (43%) and reasons (86%) of missing data and statistical approaches to handle this (71%). PRO results were not interpreted in 79% of the studies and clinical significance was not discussed in 86%. Studies with high-quality PRO evidence generally showed lower risk of bias.
Conclusions: Investigators involved in brain tumour research should pay special attention to methodological challenges identified in current work. The level of PRO reporting should continue to improve in order to facilitate a critical appraisal of study results.