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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 …
Contributors JKA, AP, CH and KRM conceived the work. JKA and AP wrote the manuscript. CH and KRM reviewed and edited the manuscript.
Funding AP, KRM and CH are coinvestigators of The Evidence Synthesis Working Group, which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR) (Project Number 390).
Competing interests AP reports grants from NIHR, grants from NIHR School of Primary Care Research, during the conduct of the study and occasionally receives expenses for teaching Evidence-Based Medicine. CH reports that he has received expenses and fees for media work, expenses from the WHO and holds grant funding from the NIHR, the NIHR School of Primary Care Research, The Wellcome Trust and the WHO. He has received financial remuneration from an asbestos case. He has also received income from the publication of a series of toolkit books published by Blackwells. On occasion, he receives expenses for teaching EBM and is also paid for his GP work in NHS out of hours and as editor in Chief of the BMJ EBM Journal. CEBM jointly runs the EvidenceLive Conference with the BMJ and the Overdiagnosis Conference with some international partners; these conferences are run on a non-profit making model. KM receives funding from the NHS NIHR including the Health Technology Assessment programme as Primary Care panel Chair. He is also Director of an MSc in Systematic Reviews. JKA is a member of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine.
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Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.