The Cochrane Neonatal Review Group (CNRG) has achieved a lot with limited resources in producing high quality systematic reviews to assist clinicians in evidence-based decision-making. A formal assessment of published CNRG systematic reviews has not been undertaken; we sought to provide a comprehensive assessment of the quality of systematic reviews (both methodologic and reporting quality) published in CNRG.
We selected a random sample of published CNRG systematic reviews. Items of the QUOROM statement were utilized to assess quality of reporting, while items and total scores of the Oxman-Guyatt Overview Quality Assessment Questionnaire (OQAQ) were used to assess methodologic quality. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed quality. A Student t-test was used to compare quality scores pre- and post-publication of the QUOROM statement.
Sixty-one systematic reviews were assessed. Overall, the included reviews had good quality with minor flaws based on OQAQ total scores (mean, 4.5 [0.9]; 95% CI, 4.27–4.77). However, room for improvement was noted in some areas, such as the title, abstract reporting, a priori plan for heterogeneity assessment and how to handle heterogeneity in case it exists, and assessment of publication bias. In addition, reporting of agreement among reviewers, documentation of trials flow, and discussion of possible biases were addressed in the review process. Reviews published post the QUOROM statement had a significantly higher quality scores.
The systematic reviews published in the CNRG are generally of good quality with minor flaws. However, efforts should be made to improve the quality of reports. Readers must continue to assess the quality of published reports on an individual basis prior to implementing the recommendations.