Introduction: Choice of outcomes is critical for clinical trialists and systematic reviewers. It is currently unclear how systematic reviewers choose and pre-specify outcomes for systematic reviews. Our objective was to assess the completeness of pre-specification and comparability of outcomes in all Cochrane reviews addressing four common eye conditions. Methods: We examined protocols for all Cochrane reviews as of June 2013 that addressed glaucoma, cataract, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy (DR). We assessed completeness and comparability for each outcome that was named in ≥25% of protocols on those topics. We defined a completely-specified outcome as including information about five elements: domain, specific measurement, specific metric, method of aggregation, and time-points. For each domain, we assessed comparability in how individual elements were specified across protocols. Results: We identified 57 protocols addressing glaucoma (22), cataract (16), AMD (15), and DR (4). We assessed completeness and comparability for five outcome domains: quality-of-life, visual acuity, intraocular pressure, disease progression, and contrast sensitivity. Overall, these five outcome domains appeared 145 times (instances). Only 15/145 instances (10.3%) were completely specified (all five elements) (median = three elements per outcome). Primary outcomes were more completely specified than non-primary (median = four versus two elements). Quality-of-life was least completely specified (median = one element). Due to largely incomplete outcome pre-specification, conclusive assessment of comparability in outcome usage across the various protocols per condition was not possible. Discussion: Outcome pre-specification was largely incomplete; we encourage systematic reviewers to consider all five elements. This will indicate the importance of complete specification to clinical trialists, on whose work systematic reviewers depend, and will indirectly encourage comparable outcome choice to reviewers undertaking related research questions. Complete pre-specification could improve efficiency and reduce bias in data abstraction and analysis during a systematic review. Ultimately, more completely specified and comparable outcomes could make systematic reviews more useful to decision-makers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)