Background: Findings from in vivo research may be less reliable where studies do not report measures to reduce risks of bias. The experimental stroke community has been at the forefront of implementing changes to improve reporting, but it is not known whether these efforts are associated with continuous improvements. Our aims here were firstly to validate an automated tool to assess risks of bias in published works, and secondly to assess the reporting of measures taken to reduce the risk of bias within recent literature for two experimental models of stroke.
Methods: We developed and used text analytic approaches to automatically ascertain reporting of measures to reduce risk of bias from full-text articles describing animal experiments inducing middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) or modelling lacunar stroke.
Results: Compared with previous assessments, there were improvements in the reporting of measures taken to reduce risks of bias in the MCAO literature but not in the lacunar stroke literature. Accuracy of automated annotation of risk of bias in the MCAO literature was 86% (randomization), 94% (blinding) and 100% (sample size calculation); and in the lacunar stroke literature accuracy was 67% (randomization), 91% (blinding) and 96% (sample size calculation).
Discussion: There remains substantial opportunity for improvement in the reporting of animal research modelling stroke, particularly in the lacunar stroke literature. Further, automated tools perform sufficiently well to identify whether studies report blinded assessment of outcome, but improvements are required in the tools to ascertain whether randomization and a sample size calculation were reported.