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J Neurotrauma. 2013 Apr 1;30(7):529-37. doi: 10.1089/neu.2012.2548. Epub 2013 Apr 15.

Acute traumatic brain injury: is current management evidence based? An empirical analysis of systematic reviews.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Renji Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major health and socioeconomic problem worldwide with a high rate of death and long-term disability. Previous studies have summarized evidence from large-scale randomized trials, finding no intervention showing convincing efficacy for acute TBI management. The present empirical study set out to assess another crucial component of evidence base-systematic review, which contributes a lot to evidence-based health care, in terms of clinical issues, methodological aspects, and implication for practice and research. A total of 44 systematic reviews pertaining to therapeutic interventions for acute TBI were identified through electronic database searching, clinical guideline retrieval, and expert consultation, of which 21 were published in Cochrane Library and 23 in peer-reviewed journals. Their methodological quality was generally satisfactory, with the median Overview Quality Assessment Questionnaire score of 5.5 (interquartile range 2-7). Cochrane reviews are of better quality than regular journal reviews. Twenty-nine high-quality reviews provided no conclusive evidence for the investigated 22 interventions except for an adverse effect of corticosteroids. Less than one-third of the component trials were reported with adequate allocation concealment. Additionally other methodological flaws in design-for example, ignoring heterogeneity among the TBI population-also contributed to the failure of past clinical research. Based on the above findings, evidence from both systematic reviews and clinical trials does not fully support current management of acute TBI. Translating from laboratory success to clinical effect remains an unique challenge. Accordingly it may be the time to rethink the way in future practice and clinical research in TBI.

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