To give the best care to patients and families, paediatricians need to integrate the highest‐quality scientific evidence with clinical expertise and the opinions of the family.1Archimedes seeks to assist practising clinicians by providing “evidence‐based” answers to common questions which are not at the forefront of research but are at the core of practice. In doing this, we are adapting a format that has been successfully developed by Kevin Macaway‐Jones and the group at the Emergency Medicine Journal—“BestBets”.
A word of warning. The topic summaries are not systematic reviews, although they are as exhaustive as a practising clinician can produce. They make no attempt to statistically aggregate the data, nor search the grey, unpublished literature. What Archimedes offers are practical, best evidence‐based answers to practical, clinical questions.
The format of Archimedes may be familiar. A description of the clinical setting is followed by a structured clinical question. (These aid in focusing the mind, assisting searching2 and gaining answers.3) A brief report of the search used follows—this has been carried out in a hierarchical way, to search for the best‐quality evidence to answer the question (http://www.cebm.net/levels_of_evidence.asp). A table provides a summary of the evidence and key points of the critical appraisal. For further information on critical appraisal and the measures of effect (such as number needed to treat), books by Sackett et al4 and Moyer et al5 may help. To pull the information together, a commentary is provided. But to make it all much more accessible, a box provides the clinical bottom lines.
Electronic‐only topics that have been published on the BestBets site (www.bestbets.org) and may be of interest to paediatricians include:
Are meningeal irritation signs reliable in diagnosing meningitis in children?
Is immobilisation effective in Osgood‐Schlatter's disease?
Do all children presenting to the emergency department with a needlestick injury require PEP for HIV to reduce HIV transmission?
Readers wishing to submit their own questions—with best evidence answers—are encouraged to review those already proposed at www.bestbets.org. If your question still has not been answered, feel free to submit your summary according to the Instructions for Authors at www.archdischild.com. Three topics are covered in this issue of the journal.
Is lumbar puncture necessary for evaluation of early neonatal sepsis?
Does the use of calamine or antihistamine provide symptomatic relief from pruritus in children with varicella zoster infection?
Is supplementary iron useful when preterm infants are treated with erythropoietin?
Is more research needed?
“More research is needed” is a phrase you might have read before. But is more research really needed? Two situations are offered to us in Archimedes this month where clinical questions are, as yet, unanswered. Is iron supplementation really necessary for premature infants treated with erythropoietin, and do antihistamines and calamine lotion help in children with chicken pox? How can we decide if these questions really do “need” research? It may be worth thinking of how likely benefits and harms may be, what the importance of these outcomes are and finally, how much would you consider reasonable to pay for the answer? For example, what chance is there that antihistamines work in chickenpox? What is the chance that side effects will occur? What is the relative severity of side effects versus the delight of being itch free? If we pay for research and spend hours and hours of time pressing through the increasing regulatory frameworks for clinical trials to define the answer to this question, what will be the opportunity cost? What would we fail to do by looking at this? The same questions can be asked of iron supplementation in premature infants, the salvage treatment of relapsing systemic histocytosis or the promotion of car‐seat use in low‐income families. Such value judgements are important; they will have different answers from different perspectives; they will be subject to political influences from pressure groups; being aware of them might stop us from frequently expounding “more research is needed”.
1Moyer VA, Ellior EJ. Preface. In: Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health, Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
2Richardson WS, Wilson MC, Nishikawa J, et al. The well‐built clinical question: a key to evidence‐based decisions. ACP J Club 1995;123:A12–13.
3Bergus GR, Randall CS, Sinift SD, et al. Does the structure of clinical questions affect the outcome of curbside consultations with specialty colleagues? Arch Fam Med 2000;9:541–7.
4Sackett DL, Starus S, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence‐based medicine. How to practice and teach EBM. San Diego: Harcourt‐Brace, 2000.
5Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health, Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.