A Systematic Review of Safety Reporting in Acute Spinal Cord Injury Clinical Trials: Challenges and Recommendations
Paul Aspinall, Liam Harrison, Paulina Scheuren, Jacquelyn J Cragg, Adam R Ferguson, James D Guest, Jane Hsieh, Linda Jones, Steven Kirshblum, Dan Lammertse, Brian K Kwon, John L K Kramer
Accurate safety information in published clinical trials guides the assessment of risk-benefit, as well as the design of future clinical trials. Comprehensive reporting of adverse events, toxicity, and discontinuations from acute spinal cord injury clinical trials is an essential step in this process. Here, we sought to assess the degree of “satisfactoriness” of reporting in past clinical trials in spinal cord injury. A review of citations from MEDLINE and EMBASE identified eligible clinical trials in acute (within 30 days) spinal cord injury. English language studies, published between 1980 and 2020, with sensory, motor, or autonomic neurological assessments as the primary outcome measure were eligible for inclusion. Criteria were then established to qualify the safety reporting as satisfactory (i.e., distinguished severe/life-threatening events), partially satisfactory, or unsatisfactory (i.e., only mentioned in general statements, or reported but without distinguishing severe events). A total of 40 trials were included. Satisfactory reporting for clinical adverse events was observed in 30% of trials; partially satisfactory was achieved by 10% of the trials, and the remaining 60% were unsatisfactory. The majority of trials were determined to be unsatisfactory for the reporting of laboratory-defined toxicity (82.5%); only 17.5% were satisfactory. Discontinuations were satisfactorily reported for the majority of trials (80%), with the remaining partially satisfactory (5%) or unsatisfactory (15%). Reporting of safety in clinical trials for acute spinal cord injury is suboptimal. Due to the complexities of acute spinal cord injury (e.g., polytrauma, multiple systems affected), tailored and specific standards for tracking adverse events and safety reporting should be established.