I am a PhD student working on a retrospective cohort project I was just wondering as described in different articles that consecutive adult patients admitted for XYZ condition were included. By this, do they mean consecutive according to their presentation in the centre? Because usually in the databases, when the data is pulled out by the data custodian, it's arranged according to the diagnosis or by alphabetic order of their last names. Could someone please guide me in this regard? Any insights you have would be of great help.


I interpret "consecutive patients" to mean consecutive regarding calendar date. The beginning and ending dates should be reported. The date might refer to either the date of the beginning or the date of the end of an episode of treatment if treatment time is more than one day. Information about treatment times should also usually be reported. If admission and discharge times are important to interpretation then they should be included in the database used for analysis.

This can all be especially important if the study interval is long, eg, several years because all the environmental conditions, including standard medical practice, might change over the interval. Some evaluation of changes in patient characteristics over time should be done. ADDED AS EDIT: Because the characteristics of patients who are treated might vary over time, eg, initial patients have more advanced illness (as in cancer) or initial patients might be less risky to treat (as in surgery).

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