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Scoping review of COVID-19-related systematic reviews and meta-analyses: can we really have confidence in their results?

Authors
  • Wurth, Rachel1
  • Hajdenberg, Michelle2
  • Barrera, Francisco J3, 4, 5
  • Shekhar, Skand1, 6
  • Copacino, Caroline E7
  • Moreno-Peña, Pablo J5
  • Gharib, Omar A M1
  • Porter, Forbes1
  • Hiremath, Swapnil8
  • Hall, Janet E6
  • Schiffrin, Ernesto L9
  • Eisenhofer, Graeme10
  • Bornstein, Stefan R11
  • Brito, Juan P4
  • González-González, José Gerardo3, 5
  • Stratakis, Constantine A1
  • Rodríguez-Gutiérrez, René3, 4, 5
  • Hannah-Shmouni, Fady12
  • 1 NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
  • 2 College of Arts and Sciences, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri, USA.
  • 3 Endocrinology Division, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital "Dr. Jose E. González", Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. , (Mexico)
  • 4 Knowledge and Evaluation Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.
  • 5 Plataforma INVEST-KER Unit Mayo Clinic (KER Unit Mexico), School of Medicine, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. , (Mexico)
  • 6 Clinical Research Branch, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
  • 7 Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
  • 8 University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 9 McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Québec, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 10 Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 11 Department of Medicine III, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 12 NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA [email protected]
Type
Published Article
Journal
Postgraduate Medical Journal
Publisher
BMJ
Publication Date
May 01, 2022
Volume
98
Issue
1159
Pages
372–379
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-139392
PMID: 33637639
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

The aim of this study was to systematically appraise the quality of a sample of COVID-19-related systematic reviews (SRs) and discuss internal validity threats affecting the COVID-19 body of evidence. We conducted a scoping review of the literature. SRs with or without meta-analysis (MA) that evaluated clinical data, outcomes or treatments for patients with COVID-19 were included. We extracted quality characteristics guided by A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews-2 to calculate a qualitative score. Complementary evaluation of the most prominent published limitations affecting the COVID-19 body of evidence was performed. A total of 63 SRs were included. The majority were judged as a critically low methodological quality. Most of the studies were not guided by a pre-established protocol (39, 62%). More than half (39, 62%) failed to address risk of bias when interpreting their results. A comprehensive literature search strategy was reported in most SRs (54, 86%). Appropriate use of statistical methods was evident in nearly all SRs with MAs (39, 95%). Only 16 (33%) studies recognised heterogeneity in the definition of severe COVID-19 as a limitation of the study, and 15 (24%) recognised repeated patient populations as a limitation. The methodological and reporting quality of current COVID-19 SR is far from optimal. In addition, most of the current SRs fail to address relevant threats to their internal validity, including repeated patients and heterogeneity in the definition of severe COVID-19. Adherence to proper study design and peer-review practices must remain to mitigate current limitations. © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

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