ObjectivesTo 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).
Study design and settingAll 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.
ResultsOne 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.
ConclusionWhile 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.
SUBMITTER: Pandis N