Research Article: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement

Date Published: July 21, 2009

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): David Moher, Alessandro Liberati, Jennifer Tetzlaff, Douglas G. Altman

Abstract: None

Partial Text: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have become increasingly important in health care. Clinicians read them to keep up to date with their field [1],[2], and they are often used as a starting point for developing clinical practice guidelines. Granting agencies may require a systematic review to ensure there is justification for further research [3], and some health care journals are moving in this direction [4]. As with all research, the value of a systematic review depends on what was done, what was found, and the clarity of reporting. As with other publications, the reporting quality of systematic reviews varies, limiting readers’ ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of those reviews.

The terminology used to describe a systematic review and meta-analysis has evolved over time. One reason for changing the name from QUOROM to PRISMA was the desire to encompass both systematic reviews and meta-analyses. We have adopted the definitions used by the Cochrane Collaboration [9]. A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies. Meta-analysis refers to the use of statistical techniques in a systematic review to integrate the results of included studies.

A three-day meeting was held in Ottawa, Canada, in June 2005 with 29 participants, including review authors, methodologists, clinicians, medical editors, and a consumer. The objective of the Ottawa meeting was to revise and expand the QUOROM checklist and flow diagram, as needed.

The PRISMA Statement consists of a 27-item checklist (Table 1; see also Text S1 for a downloadable Word template for researchers to re-use) and a four-phase flow diagram (Figure 1; see also Figure S1 for a downloadable Word template for researchers to re-use). The aim of the PRISMA Statement is to help authors improve the reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. We have focused on randomized trials, but PRISMA can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions. PRISMA may also be useful for critical appraisal of published systematic reviews. However, the PRISMA checklist is not a quality assessment instrument to gauge the quality of a systematic review.

The new PRISMA checklist differs in several respects from the QUOROM checklist, and the substantive specific changes are highlighted in Table 2. Generally, the PRISMA checklist “decouples” several items present in the QUOROM checklist and, where applicable, several checklist items are linked to improve consistency across the systematic review report.

The PRISMA Statement should replace the QUOROM Statement for those journals that have endorsed QUOROM. We hope that other journals will support PRISMA; they can do so by registering on the PRISMA Web site. To underscore to authors, and others, the importance of transparent reporting of systematic reviews, we encourage supporting journals to reference the PRISMA Statement and include the PRISMA Web address in their Instructions to Authors. We also invite editorial organizations to consider endorsing PRISMA and encourage authors to adhere to its principles.

In addition to the PRISMA Statement, a supporting Explanation and Elaboration document has been produced [18] following the style used for other reporting guidelines [19]–[21]. The process of completing this document included developing a large database of exemplars to highlight how best to report each checklist item, and identifying a comprehensive evidence base to support the inclusion of each checklist item. The Explanation and Elaboration document was completed after several face to face meetings and numerous iterations among several meeting participants, after which it was shared with the whole group for additional revisions and final approval. Finally, the group formed a dissemination subcommittee to help disseminate and implement PRISMA.

The quality of reporting of systematic reviews is still not optimal [22]–[27]. In a recent review of 300 systematic reviews, few authors reported assessing possible publication bias [22], even though there is overwhelming evidence both for its existence [28] and its impact on the results of systematic reviews [29]. Even when the possibility of publication bias is assessed, there is no guarantee that systematic reviewers have assessed or interpreted it appropriately [30]. Although the absence of reporting such an assessment does not necessarily indicate that it was not done, reporting an assessment of possible publication bias is likely to be a marker of the thoroughness of the conduct of the systematic review.



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