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Pediatr Neonatol. 2013 Aug;54(4):261-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pedneo.2013.03.002. Epub 2013 Apr 18.

Systematic Cochrane reviews in neonatology: a critical appraisal.

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University of Saarland, Medical School, Saarbrücken, Germany.



There is a lack of up-to-date, systematic reviews that critically assess the role and potential limitations of evidence-based medicine (EBM) and systematic reviews in neonatology.


We performed a systematic literature review of all Cochrane reviews published between 1996 and 2010 by the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group (CNRG). Main outcome parameter: assessment of the percentage of reviews that concluded that a certain intervention provides a benefit, the percentage of reviews that concluded that no benefit was seen, and the percentage of studies that concluded that the current level of evidence is inconclusive.


In total, 262 reviews were assessed, most of which included exclusively preterm infants (146/262). The majority of reviews assessed pharmacological interventions (145/262); other important fields included nutritional (46/262), and ventilatory issues (27/262). In 42/262 reviews, a clear recommendation in favor of a specific intervention was given, whereas 98/262 reviews concluded that certain interventions should not be performed. However, the largest proportion of reviews was inconclusive (122/262) and did not issue specific recommendations. The proportion of inconclusive reviews increased from 30% (1996-2000), to 50% (2001-2005), and finally to 58% for the years 2006-2010. Common reasons for inconclusive reviews were the small number of patients (105), insufficient data (94), insufficient methodological quality (87), and heterogeneity of studies (69).


There is an ongoing need for high-quality research in order to reduce the proportion of inconclusive meta-analyses in the field of neonatology. Funding and research agencies will play a vital role in selecting the most appropriate research programs.


Cochrane reviews; evidence-based medicine; meta-analysis; neonatology

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