Article Text

A word about evidence: ‘rapid reviews’ or ‘restricted reviews’?
  1. Jeffrey K Aronson,
  2. Carl Heneghan,
  3. Kamal R Mahtani,
  4. Annette Plüddemann
  1. Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Annette Plüddemann, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6GG, UK; annette.pluddemann{at}

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In recent years, ‘rapid reviews’ have become increasingly popular. Here members of the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine suggest that such reviews have been misnamed and should instead be called ‘restricted reviews’.

The main aim of a conventional systematic review in healthcare is to identify and critically appraise all the available evidence on a particular question and, when possible, to synthesise the data, for example by meta-analysis, to provide evidence that can be used to help inform clinical decisions. Systematic reviews also allow decision makers to assess the results of individual studies in the context of the totality of the evidence, informing clinical decisions, guidelines and policy.

The first systematic review to be listed as such in PubMed dates, surprisingly, from 1948,1 although earlier instances can be found. For example, the author of an 1842 review in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, of a book by Dally, Elémens de l’Histoire du Genre Humain, avec Figures, Plans et Cartes géographiques d’après les Documens les plus récents (Bruxelles, 1842),2 wrote that ‘The third section (of the book) contains a systematic review of the geography of the old world, arranged according to the opinions developed in the second [section]’.

The term ‘meta-analysis’ was invented by Gene Glass in 1976.3 4 However, it was not until the advent of evidence-based medicine in the early 1990s that systematic reviews and meta-analyses started to become the rigorous products with which we are familiar today, with clearly defined methods and associated tools for assessing their rigour. Searching PubMed for ‘systematic review[s]’ as a textword yields nearly 120 000 hits, and …

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