Exploring the reporting standards of RCTs involving invasive procedures for assisted vaginal birth: a systematic review

Emily J Hotton*, Sophie Renwick, Erik Lenguerrand, Julia Wade, Tim J Draycott, Joanna F Crofts, Natalie S Blencowe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review


Assisted vaginal birth (AVB) is a complex intervention involving medical devices, comprising multiple components. This complexity creates difficulties when designing and conducting randomised controlled trials (RCTs), in terms of describing, standardising and monitoring the intervention, and accounting for differing clinician expertise. This review examines the reporting standards of complex interventions involving a medical device, in the context of AVB RCTs.

Study design
Searches were undertaken from the start of indexing to March 2021, and limited to RCTs, feasibility and pilot studies including at least one device for AVB. RCTs were selected if they included participants having an AVB with any device, with or without a comparator group. Reporting details were assessed according to the Consolidating Standards of Reporting Trials extension for non-pharmacological treatments (CONSORT-NPT), focusing on intervention descriptions, standardization, adherence and clinician expertise. Screening of abstracts, full-text articles and data extraction was performed by two independent reviewers.

Of 4,098 abstracts and 83 full-text articles, 39 papers were included, investigating 80 interventions. Twenty-seven different named devices were identified. Intervention descriptions were provided in 20(51%) papers with varying levels of detail and with only one covering the entire procedure. Standardization of interventions was mentioned in 25 papers(64%). Only eight(21%) papers reported any form of adherence to the intended procedure. Some data regarding expertise were reported in 25(64%) papers.

Despite some compliance with reporting standards, there is a lack of detail regarding intervention description, standardization, adherence and expertise in RCTs of AVB. This creates difficulties in understanding how intervention delivery was intended and what actually occurred. Clearer guidelines for the reporting of invasive procedures and devices are required.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Early online date14 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 May 2021


  • reporting standards
  • complex interventions
  • assisted vaginal birth
  • ventouse
  • forceps
  • Odon Device


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