A third of systematic reviews changed or did not specify the primary outcome: a PROSPERO register study

Andrea C. Tricco, Elise Cogo, Matthew J. Page, Julie Polisena, Alison M Booth, Kerry Dwan, Heather MacDonald, Tammy J. Clifford, Lesley A Stewart, Sharon E Straus, David Moher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives To examine outcome reporting bias of systematic reviews registered in PROSPERO. Study Design and Setting Retrospective cohort study. The primary outcomes from systematic review publications were compared with those reported in the corresponding PROSPERO records; discrepancies in the primary outcomes were assessed as upgrades, additions, omissions, or downgrades. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated to determine the likelihood of having a change in primary outcome when the meta-analysis result was favorable and statistically significant. Results Ninety-six systematic reviews were published. A discrepancy in the primary outcome occurred in 32% of the included reviews and 39% of the reviews did not explicitly specify a primary outcome(s); 6% of the primary outcomes were omitted. There was no significant increased risk of adding/upgrading (RR, 2.14; 95% CI: 0.53, 8.63) or decreased risk of downgrading (RR, 0.76; 95% CI: 0.27, 2.17) an outcome when the meta-analysis result was favorable and statistically significant. As well, there was no significant increased risk of adding/upgrading (RR, 0.89; 95% CI: 0.31, 2.53) or decreased risk of downgrading (RR, 0.56; 95% CI: 0.29, 1.08) an outcome when the conclusion was positive. Conclusions We recommend review authors carefully consider primary outcome selection, and journals are encouraged to focus acceptance on registered systematic reviews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-54
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Volume79
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

Keywords

  • Bias
  • Methodology
  • Outcome reporting bias
  • Quality
  • Reporting
  • Systematic reviews

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