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1.  Methodological issues and recommendations for systematic reviews of prognostic studies: an example from cardiovascular disease 
Systematic Reviews  2014;3(1):140.
Prognostic factors are associated with the risk of future health outcomes in individuals with a particular health condition. The prognostic ability of such factors is increasingly being assessed in both primary research and systematic reviews. Systematic review methodology in this area is continuing to evolve, reflected in variable approaches to key methodological aspects. The aim of this article was to (i) explore and compare the methodology of systematic reviews of prognostic factors undertaken for the same clinical question, (ii) to discuss implications for review findings, and (iii) to present recommendations on what might be considered to be ‘good practice’ approaches.
The sample was comprised of eight systematic reviews addressing the same clinical question, namely whether ‘aspirin resistance’ (a potential prognostic factor) has prognostic utility relative to future vascular events in patients on aspirin therapy for secondary prevention. A detailed comparison of methods around study identification, study selection, quality assessment, approaches to analysis, and reporting of findings was undertaken and the implications discussed. These were summarised into key considerations that may be transferable to future systematic reviews of prognostic factors.
Across systematic reviews addressing the same clinical question, there were considerable differences in the numbers of studies identified and overlap between included studies, which could only partially be explained by different study eligibility criteria. Incomplete reporting and differences in terminology within primary studies hampered study identification and selection process across reviews. Quality assessment was highly variable and only one systematic review considered a checklist for studies of prognostic questions. There was inconsistency between reviews in approaches towards analysis, synthesis, addressing heterogeneity and reporting of results.
Different methodological approaches may ultimately affect the findings and interpretation of systematic reviews of prognostic research, with implications for clinical decision-making.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2046-4053-3-140) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4265412  PMID: 25466903
Systematic review methodology; Prognostic utility; Prognostic factor; Aspirin resistance; Cardiovascular disease; Search strategy; Study selection; Quality assessment; Reporting bias
2.  Protocol for a systematic review and economic evaluation of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of non-hospital-based non-invasive ventilation (NIV) in patients with stable end-stage COPD with hypercapnic respiratory failure 
Systematic Reviews  2014;3:32.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains a significant public health burden. Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) is a method of supported breathing used as standard care for acutely unwell patients in hospital with COPD, but there is uncertainty around the potential benefits of using NIV in the treatment of stable patients in a non-hospital setting. This is a protocol for systematic reviews of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of NIV in this context, being undertaken in support of a model based economic evaluation.
Standard systematic review methods aimed at minimising bias will be employed for study identification, selection and data extraction for both the clinical and economic systematic reviews. Bibliographic databases (for example MEDLINE, EMBASE) and ongoing trials registers will be searched from 1980 onwards. The search strategy will combine terms for the population with those for the intervention. Studies will be selected for review if the population includes adult patients with COPD and hypercapnic respiratory failure, however defined. Systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials and observational studies (with n >1) will be included, and quality assessment will be tailored to the different study designs. The primary outcome measures of interest are survival, quality of life, and healthcare utilisations (hospitalisation and Accident and Emergency attendances). Meta-analyses will be undertaken where clinical and methodological homogeneity exists, supported by predefined subgroup analyses where appropriate. A systematic review of the evidence on the cost-effectiveness of non-hospital NIV will be completed, and a model-based cost-utility analysis undertaken to determine the cost-effectiveness of non-hospital-based NIV compared with standard care.
These reviews will attempt to clarify the clinical effectiveness of non-hospital NIV in COPD patients as well as the cost-effectiveness. The findings may indicate whether NIV in a non-hospital setting should be considered more routinely in this patient group, and what the likely cost implications will be.
PROSPERO registration
PMCID: PMC3977879  PMID: 24669937
COPD; Non-hospital-based non-invasive ventilation; Hypercapnia; Clinical effectiveness; Cost-effectiveness; Systematic review; Meta-analysis
3.  Protocol for a systematic review of the diagnostic and prognostic utility of tests currently available for the detection of aspirin resistance in patients with established cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease 
Systematic Reviews  2013;2:16.
The benefits of aspirin as an anti-platelet agent are well established; however, there has been much debate about the lack of uniformity in the efficacy of aspirin to inhibit platelet function. In some patients, aspirin fails to inhibit platelets even where compliance has been verified, a phenomenon which has been termed “aspirin resistance”. These patients may in turn be at a higher risk of future vascular events. The proportion of “resistant” patients identified depends on the type of platelet function test. Therefore, the aim of this systematic review is to determine which, if any, platelet function test has utility in terms of identifying patients with a high risk of vascular events. The review has been registered with PROSPERO (CRD42012002151).
Relevant studies will be sought from bibliographic databases. Trials registers will be searched for ongoing studies. Reference lists will be checked and subject experts contacted. There will be no date or language restrictions. Standard reviewing methodology to minimise bias will be employed. Any prospective studies in patients on aspirin therapy and assessing platelet function in relation to relevant clinical outcomes will be included, as will studies reporting prognostic models. Risk of bias assessment will be based on the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies guidelines, and suitable criteria for assessing quality of prognostic studies. Data on test accuracy measures, relative risks, odds or hazard ratios will be extracted and meta-analysed, where possible, using a random-effects model to account for between-study heterogeneity. Where appropriate, the causes of heterogeneity will be explored through meta-regression and sub-group or sensitivity analyses. If platelet function testing is demonstrated to have diagnostic/predictive utility in a specific population, the potential for a cost-effectiveness analysis will be considered and, if possible, an economic model constructed. This will be supported by a systematic review of existing economic evaluation studies.
The results of the review could indicate if platelet function test(s) could lead to a reliable prediction of the risk of clinically important events in a defined population, and thus support investigations into adjustments to therapy in order to compensate for a predicted poor response to standard aspirin.
PMCID: PMC3600664  PMID: 23442317
Aspirin resistance; Cardiovascular disease; Cerebrovascular disease; Diabetes; Diagnosis; Meta-analysis; Platelet function test; Prediction; Prognosis; Test accuracy
4.  Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of pegvisomant for the treatment of acromegaly: a systematic review and economic evaluation 
Acromegaly, an orphan disease usually caused by a benign pituitary tumour, is characterised by hyper-secretion of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1). It is associated with reduced life expectancy, cardiovascular problems, a variety of insidiously progressing detrimental symptoms and metabolic malfunction. Treatments include surgery, radiotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Pegvisomant (PEG) is a genetically engineered GH analogue licensed as a third or fourth line option when other treatments have failed to normalise IGF-1 levels.
Evidence about effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of PEG was systematically reviewed. Data were extracted from published studies and used for a narrative synthesis of evidence. A decision analytical economic model was identified and modified to assess the cost-effectiveness of PEG.
One RCT and 17 non-randomised studies were reviewed for effectiveness. PEG substantially reduced and rapidly normalised IGF-1 levels in the majority of patients, approximately doubled GH levels, and improved some of the signs and symptoms of the disease. Tumour size was unaffected at least in the short term. PEG had a generally safe adverse event profile but a few patients were withdrawn from treatment because of raised liver enzymes. An economic model was identified and adapted to estimate the lower limit for the cost-effectiveness of PEG treatment versus standard care. Over a 20 year time horizon the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was £81,000/QALY and £212,000/LYG. To reduce this to £30K/QALY would require a reduction in drug cost by about one third.
PEG is highly effective for improving patients' IGF-1 level. Signs and symptoms of disease improve but evidence is lacking about long term effects on improved signs and symptoms of disease, quality of life, patient compliance and safety. Economic evaluation indicated that if current standards (UK) for determining cost-effectiveness of therapies were to be applied to PEG it would be considered not to represent good value for money.
PMCID: PMC2768727  PMID: 19814797
5.  The clinical effectiveness of different parenting programmes for children with conduct problems: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials 
Conduct problems are common, disabling and costly. The prognosis for children with conduct problems is poor, with outcomes in adulthood including criminal behaviour, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and a range of psychiatric disorders.
There has been a rapid expansion of group based parent-training programmes for the treatment of children with conduct problems in a number of countries over the past 10 years. Existing reviews of parent training have methodological limitations such as inclusion of non-randomised studies, the absence of investigation for heterogeneity prior to meta-analysis or failure to report confidence intervals.
The objective of the current study was to systematically review randomised controlled trials of parenting programmes for the treatment of children with conduct problems.
Standard systematic review methods were followed including duplicate inclusion decisions, data extraction and quality assessment. Twenty electronic databases from the fields of medicine, psychology, social science and education were comprehensively searched for RCTs and systematic reviews to February 2006.
Inclusion criteria were: randomised controlled trial; of structured, repeatable parenting programmes; for parents/carers of children up to the age of 18 with a conduct problem; and at least one measure of child behaviour. Meta-analysis and qualitative synthesis were used to summarise included studies.
57 RCTs were included. Studies were small with an average group size of 21. Meta-analyses using both parent (SMD -0.67; 95% CI: -0.91, -0.42) and independent (SMD -0.44; 95% CI: -0.66, -0.23) reports of outcome showed significant differences favouring the intervention group. There was insufficient evidence to determine the relative effectiveness of different approaches to delivering parenting programmes.
Parenting programmes are an effective treatment for children with conduct problems. The relative effectiveness of different parenting programmes requires further research.
PMCID: PMC2660289  PMID: 19261188
6.  So many filters, so little time: the development of a search filter appraisal checklist 
The authors developed a tool to assess the quality of search filters designed to retrieve records for studies with specific research designs (e.g., diagnostic studies).
The UK InterTASC Information Specialists' Sub-Group (ISSG), a group of experienced health care information specialists, reviewed the literature to evaluate existing search filter appraisal tools and determined that existing tools were inadequate for their needs. The group held consensus meetings to develop a new filter appraisal tool consisting of a search filter appraisal checklist and a structured abstract. ISSG members tested the final checklist using three published search filters.
The detailed ISSG Search Filter Appraisal Checklist captures relevance criteria and methods used to develop and test search filters. The checklist includes categorical and descriptive responses and is accompanied by a structured abstract that provides a summary of key quality features of a filter.
The checklist is a comprehensive appraisal tool that can assist health sciences librarians and others in choosing search filters. The checklist reports filter design methods and search performance measures, such as sensitivity and precision. The checklist can also aid filter developers by indicating information on core methods that should be reported to help assess filter suitability. The generalizability of the checklist for non-methods filters remains to be explored.
PMCID: PMC2568852  PMID: 18974813
7.  The association between air travel and deep vein thrombosis: Systematic review & meta-analysis 
Air travel has been linked with the development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) since the 1950s with a number of plausible explanations put forward for causation. No systematic review of the literature exploring this association has previously been published.
A comprehensive search was undertaken (Data bases searched were: MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library) for studies that estimated both the incidence and the risk of DVT in air travellers relative to non-air travellers.
In total 254 studies were identified but only six incidence studies and four risk studies met inclusion criteria justifying their use in a systematic review. Incidence of symptomatic DVT ranged from (0%) in one study to (0.28%) which was reported in pilots over ten years. The incidence of asymptomatic DVT ranged from (0%) to (10.34%). Pooled odds ratios for the two case control studies examining the risk of DVT following air travel were 1.11 (95% CI: 0.64–1.94). Pooled odds ratios for all models of travel including two studies of prolonged air travel (more than three hours) were 1.70 (95% CI: 0.89–3.22).
We found no definitive evidence that prolonged (more than 3-hours) travel including air travel, increases the risk of DVT. There is evidence to suggest that flights of eight hours or more increase the risk of DVT if additional risk factors exist.
PMCID: PMC434500  PMID: 15151705

Results 1-7 (7)