BackgroundWhen planning clinical trials, it is a key element to choose appropriate outcomes that ensure the comparability of effects of interventions in ways that minimise bias. We hypothesise that outcome measures in cardiothoracic surgical trials are inconsistent and without standard. Therefore, comparing the relative effectiveness of interventions across studies is problematic. We surmise that cardiothoracic research has focused habitually on the identification of risk factors and on the reduction of adverse outcomes with less consideration of factors that contribute to well being and positive health outcomes (salutogenesis).
Methods and findingsWe conducted a systematic review of reviews to determine both the type and number of outcomes reported in current cardiothoracic surgery interventional research, in order to identify a list of potential outcomes for a minimum core outcome set (COS). Special focus was placed on outcomes that emphasise salutogenesis. We interpreted salutogenic outcomes as those relating to optimum and/or positive health and well being. We searched Issue 7 (July 2014) of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Systematic reviews of randomised trials on non-minimal-invasive off- or on-pump cardiothoracic surgery (elective and emergency, excluding transplants) investigating pre-, intra- or postsurgical interventions related to the outcome of the procedure were eligible for inclusion. We excluded protocols and withdrawn systematic reviews. Two review authors extracted outcome data independently. Unique lists of salutogenically and non-salutogenically focused outcomes were established. 15 systematic reviews involving 371 randomized trials and 58,253 patients were included in this review. Applied definitions of single and composite endpoints varied significantly, and patient-centred, salutogenically focused outcomes were seldom reported. One third of included reviews did not assess patient-centred outcomes at all; all other reviews were unable to perform meta-analyses due to an absence of data or heterogeneity in outcome measures. This compares to 36 non-salutogenically focused outcome domains representing 121 individual non-salutogenically focused outcomes, whereof 50% were assessed only once. Measures of mortality, cerebrovascular complications and hospitalisation were reported most frequently. Two reviews chose a composite endpoint as primary outcome. Pooled analysis of composite endpoints was not possible, as the required data was not reported per patient in all components.
ConclusionIn cardiothoracic surgical trials, choice and definition of non-salutogenically focused single and composite outcomes are inconsistent. There is an absence of patient centred, salutogenically focused outcome parameters in cardiac trials. We recommend the development of a core outcome set of salutogenically focused and non-salutogenically focused outcomes for cardiothoracic surgical research.