Statistical multiplicity in systematic reviews of anaesthesia interventions: a quantification and comparison between Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Systematic reviews with meta-analyses often contain many statistical tests. This multiplicity may increase the risk of type I error. Few attempts have been made to address the problem of statistical multiplicity in systematic reviews. Before the implications are properly considered, the size of the issue deserves clarification. Because of the emphasis on bias evaluation and because of the editorial processes involved, Cochrane reviews may contain more multiplicity than their non-Cochrane counterparts. This study measured the quantity of statistical multiplicity present in a population of systematic reviews and aimed to assess whether this quantity is different in Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews. METHODS/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We selected all the systematic reviews published by the Cochrane Anaesthesia Review Group containing a meta-analysis and matched them with comparable non-Cochrane reviews. We counted the number of statistical tests done in each systematic review. The median number of tests overall was 10 (interquartile range (IQR) 6 to 18). The median was 12 in Cochrane and 8 in non-Cochrane reviews (difference in medians 4 (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0-19.0). The proportion that used an assessment of risk of bias as a reason for doing extra analyses was 42% in Cochrane and 28% in non-Cochrane reviews (difference in proportions 14% (95% CI -8 to 36). The issue of multiplicity was addressed in 6% of all the reviews. CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: Statistical multiplicity in systematic reviews requires attention. We found more multiplicity in Cochrane reviews than in non-Cochrane reviews. Many of the reasons for the increase in multiplicity may well represent improved methodological approaches and greater transparency, but multiplicity may also cause an increased risk of spurious conclusions. Few systematic reviews, whether Cochrane or non-Cochrane, address the issue of multiplicity.
Project description:In 1996, shortly after the founding of The Cochrane Collaboration, leading figures in test evaluation research established a Methods Group to focus on the relatively new and rapidly evolving methods for the systematic review of studies of diagnostic tests. Seven years later, the Collaboration decided it was time to develop a publication format and methodology for Diagnostic Test Accuracy (DTA) reviews, as well as the software needed to implement these reviews in The Cochrane Library. A meeting hosted by the German Cochrane Centre in 2004 brought together key methodologists in the area, many of whom became closely involved in the subsequent development of the methodological framework for DTA reviews. DTA reviews first appeared in The Cochrane Library in 2008 and are now an integral part of the work of the Collaboration.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To assess the quality of Cochrane reviews. DESIGN:Ten methodologists affiliated with the Cochrane Collaboration independently examined, in a semistructured way, the quality of reviews first published in 1998. Each review was assessed by two people; if one of them noted any major problems, they agreed on a common assessment. Predominant types of problem were categorised. SETTING:Cyberspace collaboration coordinated from the Nordic Cochrane Centre. STUDIES:All 53 reviews first published in issue 4 of the Cochrane Library in 1998. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE:Proportion of reviews with various types of major problem. RESULTS:No problems or only minor ones were found in most reviews. Major problems were identified in 15 reviews (29%). The evidence did not fully support the conclusion in nine reviews (17%), the conduct or reporting was unsatisfactory in 12 reviews (23%), and stylistic problems were identified in 12 reviews (23%). The problematic conclusions all gave too favourable a picture of the experimental intervention. CONCLUSIONS:Cochrane reviews have previously been shown to be of higher quality and less biased on average than other systematic reviews, but improvement is always possible. The Cochrane Collaboration has taken steps to improve editorial processes and the quality of its reviews. Meanwhile, the Cochrane Library remains a key source of evidence about the effects of healthcare interventions. Its users should interpret reviews cautiously, particularly those with conclusions favouring experimental interventions and those with many typographical errors.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:our study had two objectives: a) to systematically identify all existing systematic reviews of Chinese herbal medicines (CHM) published in Cochrane Library; b) to assess the methodological quality of included reviews. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:We performed a systematic search of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR, Issue 5, 2010) to identify all reviews of CHM. A total of fifty-eight reviews were eligible for our study. Twenty-one of the included reviews had at least one Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner as its co-author. 7 reviews didn't include any primary study, the remaining reviews (n = 51) included a median of 9 studies and 936 participants. 50% of reviews were last assessed as up-to-date prior to 2008. The questions addressed by 39 reviews were broad in scope, in which 9 reviews combined studies with different herbal medicines. For OQAQ, the mean of overall quality score (item 10) was 5.05 (95% CI; 4.58-5.52). All reviews assessed the methodological quality of primary studies, 16% of included primary studies used adequate sequence generation and 7% used adequate allocation concealment. Of the 51 nonempty reviews, 23 reviews were reported as being inconclusive, while 27 concluded that there might be benefit of CHM, which was limited by the poor quality or inadequate quantity of included studies. 58 reviews reported searching a median of seven electronic databases, while 10 reviews did not search any Chinese database. CONCLUSIONS:Now CDSR has included large numbers of CHM reviews, our study identified some areas which could be improved, such as almost half of included reviews did not have the participation of TCM practitioners and were not up-to-date according to Cochrane criteria, some reviews pooled the results of different herbal medicines and ignored the searching of Chinese databases.
Project description:BackgroundStroke is a major health issue worldwide. Since Chinese herbal medicine is widely used for the treatment of stroke, there is a need to evaluate its efficacy as an alternative treatment option. The aim of this paper is to carry out an overview of Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of stroke by summarizing and evaluating all existing Cochrane reviews.MethodsThe Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews was searched from its inception date to August 2019 using “stroke” and “herbal medicine” or “traditional medicine” as search terms. For the methodological quality assessment of the Cochrane reviews, the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) tool was used.ResultsEight Cochrane reviews that evaluated the efficacy of herbal medicine for the treatment of stroke were included in this overview. There were 71 randomized controlled trials, with 5770 patients in total. The AMSTAR scores of the Cochrane reviews included in this study ranged from 9 to 11 with a mean score of 10. Three reviews met all the 11-item criteria of the AMSTAR. All reviews presented potential efficacy of herbal medicine for stroke treatment in terms of improvement of neurological deficit.ConclusionThis overview reveals the potential efficacy of herbal medicines for the treatment of stroke in terms of neurological deficit improvement. However, due to the high risk of bias in the reviews’ studies, an affirmative conclusion for the recommendation of herbal medicine for clinical practice could not be drawn.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In contemporary medical research, randomised controlled trials are seen as the gold standard for establishing treatment effects where it is ethical and practical to conduct them. In palliative care such trials are often impractical, unethical, or extremely difficult, with multiple methodological problems. We review the utility of Cochrane reviews in informing palliative care practice. METHODS: Published reviews in palliative care registered with the Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Group as of December 2007 were obtained from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, issue 1, 2008. We reviewed the quality and quantity of primary studies available for each review, assessed the quality of the review process, and judged the strength of the evidence presented. There was no prior intention to perform any statistical analyses. RESULTS: 25 published systematic reviews were identified. Numbers of included trials ranged from none to 54. Within each review, included trials were heterogeneous with respect to patients, interventions, and outcomes, and the number of patients contributing to any single analysis was generally much lower than the total included in the review. A variety of tools were used to assess trial quality; seven reviews did not use this information to exclude low quality studies, weight analyses, or perform sensitivity analysis for effect of low quality. Authors indicated that there were frequently major problems with the primary studies, individually or in aggregate. Our judgment was that the reviewing process was generally good in these reviews, and that conclusions were limited by the number, size, quality and validity of the primary studies.We judged the evidence about 23 of the 25 interventions to be weak. Two reviews had stronger evidence, but with limitations due to methodological heterogeneity or definition of outcomes. No review provided strong evidence of no effect. CONCLUSION: Cochrane reviews in palliative care are well performed, but fail to provide good evidence for clinical practice because the primary studies are few in number, small, clinically heterogeneous, and of poor quality and external validity. They are useful in highlighting the weakness of the evidence base and problems in performing trials in palliative care.
Project description:<h4>Objectives</h4>To assess discrepancies in the analyzed outcomes between protocols and published reviews within Cochrane oral health systematic reviews (COHG) on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR).<h4>Study design and setting</h4>All COHG systematic reviews on the CDSR and the corresponding protocols were retrieved in November 2014 and information on the reported outcomes was recorded. Data was collected at the systematic review level by two reviewers independently.<h4>Results</h4>One hundred and fifty two reviews were included. In relation to primary outcomes, 11.2% were downgraded to secondary outcomes, 9.9% were omitted altogether in the final publication and new primary outcomes were identified in 18.4% of publications. For secondary outcomes, 2% were upgraded to primary, 12.5% were omitted and 30.9% were newly introduced in the publication. Overall, 45.4% of reviews had at least one discrepancy when compared to the protocol; these were reported in 14.5% reviews. The number of review updates appears to be associated with discrepancies between final review and protocol (OR: 3.18, 95% CI: 1.77, 5.74, p<0.001). The risk of reporting significant results was lower for both downgraded outcomes [RR: 0.52, 95% CI: 0.17, 1.58, p = 0.24] and upgraded or newly introduced outcomes [RR: 0.77, 95% CI: 0.36, 1.64, p = 0.50] compared to outcomes with no discrepancies. The risk of reporting significant results was higher for upgraded or newly introduced outcomes compared to downgraded outcomes (RR = 1.19, 95% CI: 0.65, 2.16, p = 0.57). None of the comparisons reached statistical significance.<h4>Conclusion</h4>While no evidence of selective outcome reporting was found in this study, based on the present analysis of SRs published within COHG systematic reviews, discrepancies between outcomes in pre-published protocols and final reviews continue to be common. Solutions such as the use of standardized outcomes to reduce the prevalence of this issue may need to be explored.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Eczema is the most common inflammatory skin disease of childhood, characterized by an itchy red rash that usually involves the face and skin folds. There is currently no curative treatment for eczema, so the reduction of eczema incidence through disease prevention is a desirable goal. Potential interventions for preventing eczema include exclusive breastfeeding, hydrolysed protein formulas and soy formulas when bottle feeding, maternal antigen avoidance, omega oil supplementation, prebiotics and probiotics. OBJECTIVES: This overview of reviews aims to present the current body of data from Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews to provide the most up-to-date evidence on the efficacy and safety of interventions to prevent eczema in infants and children at different risk levels for developing allergic disease. METHODS: Our pool of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews came from the 2010 United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) Evidence Skin Disorders Annual Evidence Updates Mapping Exercise on Atopic Eczema. This group used a comprehensive search strategy last conducted in August 2010 to identify all systematic reviews on eczema prevention. We identified all reviews that met our pre-specified inclusion criteria, and data were extracted, analysed, compiled into tables and synthesized using quantitative and qualitative methods. MAIN RESULTS: Seven systematic reviews containing 39 relevant trials with 11 897 participants were included in this overview. Overall, there was no clear evidence that any of the main interventions reviewed reduced eczema incidence. In subgroup analyses of infants at high risk of allergic disease, an observational study found that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months compared with introduction of solids at three to six months decreased the incidence of eczema by 60% (risk ratio (RR): 0.40; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.21, 0.78), and a randomized controlled trial found that prebiotics compared with no prebiotics decreased incidence by 58% (RR: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.21, 0.84). However, each of these findings was based on the results of a single small trial, and no intervention reduced eczema incidence beyond the first two years of life. Although we pre-specified incidence of atopic eczema (i.e. eczema associated with immunoglobulin E (IgE) sensitization) as a primary outcome, data on whether participants diagnosed with eczema were truly atopic were largely lacking from systematic reviews. Similarly, data on atopy, measured using skin prick tests or specific IgE tests to allergens, were not reported in many reviews. No interventions were found to decrease atopy when reported. Adverse events data were generally lacking, but data from a trial of probiotics versus no probiotics showed significantly more spitting up in the first one (RR: 1.88; 95% CI: 1.03, 3.45) and two (RR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.02, 2.80) months of life, but no overall increase in risk of gastrointestinal symptoms in the first year. AUTHORS#ENTITYSTARTX02019; CONCLUSIONS: Although there is currently no clear evidence showing that any of the interventions examined in this overview prevent eczema in participants not selected for risk of allergic disease, there is some evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and prebiotics might reduce eczema incidence in high-risk participants. However, these conclusions are based on limited evidence with methodological shortcomings. Future research on prevention of eczema is needed and should examine different types of hydrolysed formulas, prebiotics and probiotics, as well as enhancement of the skin barrier and other novel approaches in infants at different risk levels for developing allergic disease.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Despite the growing reputation and subject coverage of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, many systematic reviews continue to be published solely in paper-based health care journals. This study was designed to determine why authors choose to publish their systematic reviews outside of the Cochrane Collaboration and if they might be interested in converting their reviews to Cochrane format for publication in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. METHODS:Cross-sectional survey of Australian primary authors of systematic reviews not published on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews identified from the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness. RESULTS:We identified 88 systematic reviews from the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness with an Australian as the primary author. We surveyed 52 authors for whom valid contact information was available. The response rate was 88 per cent (46/52). Ten authors replied without completing the survey, leaving 36 valid surveys for analysis. The most frequently cited reasons for not undertaking a Cochrane review were: lack of time (78%), the need to undergo specific Cochrane training (46%), unwillingness to update reviews (36%), difficulties with the Cochrane process (26%) and the review topic already registered with the Cochrane Collaboration (21%). (Percentages based on completed responses to individual questions.) Nearly half the respondents would consider converting their review to Cochrane format. Dedicated time emerged as the most important factor in facilitating the potential conversion process. Other factors included navigating the Cochrane system, assistance with updating and financial support. Eighty-six per cent were willing to have their review converted to Cochrane format by another author. CONCLUSION:Time required to complete a Cochrane review and the need for specific training are the primary reasons why some authors publish systematic reviews outside of the Cochrane Collaboration. Encouragingly, almost half of the authors would consider converting their review to Cochrane format. Based on the current number of reviews in the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness, this could result in more than 700 additional Cochrane reviews. Ways of supporting these authors and how to provide dedicated time to convert systematic reviews needs further consideration.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>To compare the methodological quality and conclusions in Cochrane reviews with those in industry supported meta-analyses and other meta-analyses of the same drugs.<h4>Design</h4>Systematic review comparing pairs of meta-analyses that studied the same two drugs in the same disease and were published within two years of each other.<h4>Data sources</h4>Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2003, issue 1), PubMed, and Embase.<h4>Data extraction</h4>Two observers independently extracted data and used a validated scale to judge the methodological quality of the reviews.<h4>Results</h4>175 of 1596 Cochrane reviews had a meta-analysis that compared two drugs. Twenty four meta-analyses that matched the Cochrane reviews were found: eight were industry supported, nine had undeclared support, and seven had no support or were supported by non-industry sources. On a 0-7 scale, the median quality score was 7 for Cochrane reviews and 3 for other reviews (P < 0.01). Compared with industry supported reviews and reviews with undeclared support, Cochrane reviews had more often considered the potential for bias in the review--for example, by describing the method of concealment of allocation and describing excluded patients or studies. The seven industry supported reviews that had conclusions recommended the experimental drug without reservations, compared with none of the Cochrane reviews (P = 0.02), although the estimated treatment effect was similar on average (z = 0.46, P = 0.64). Reviews with undeclared support and reviews with not for profit support or no support had conclusions that were similar in cautiousness to the Cochrane reviews.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Industry supported reviews of drugs should be read with caution as they were less transparent, had few reservations about methodological limitations of the included trials, and had more favourable conclusions than the corresponding Cochrane reviews.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Assessing the risk of bias (RoB) in included studies is one of the key methodological aspects of systematic reviews. Cochrane systematic reviews appraise RoB of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with the Cochrane RoB tool. Detailed instructions for using the Cochrane RoB tool are provided in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (The Cochrane Handbook). The purpose of this study was to analyse whether Cochrane authors use adequate judgments about the RoB for random sequence generation of RCTs included in Cochrane reviews. METHODS:We extracted authors' judgments (high, low or unclear RoB) and supports for judgments (comments accompanying judgments which explain the rationale for a judgment) for random sequence generation of included RCTs from RoB tables of Cochrane reviews using automated data scraping. We categorised all supporting comments, analysed the number and type of various supporting comments and assessed adequacy of RoB judgment for randomisation in line with recommendations from the Cochrane Handbook. RESULTS:We analysed 10,103 RCTs that were included in 704 Cochrane reviews. For 5,706 RCTs, randomisation was not described, but for the remaining RCTs, it was indicated that randomisation was performed using computer/software/internet (N = 2,850), random number table (N = 883), mechanical method (N = 359) or it was incomplete/inappropriate (N = 305). Overall, 1,220/10,103 trials (12%) did not have a RoB judgment in line with Cochrane Handbook guidance about randomisation. The highest proportion of misjudgements was found for trials with high RoB (28%), followed by those with low (20%) or unclear (3%). Therefore, one in eight judgments for the analysed domain in Cochrane reviews was not in line with Cochrane Handbook, and one in four if the judgment was "high risk". CONCLUSION:Authors of Cochrane reviews often make judgments about the RoB related to random sequence generation that are not in line with instructions given in the Cochrane Handbook, which compromises the reliability of the systematic reviews. Our results can help authors of both Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews which use Cochrane RoB tool to avoid making common mistakes when assessing RoB in included trials.