Meta-analyses of clinical trials often provide sufficient information for decision-makers to evaluate whether chance can explain apparent differences between interventions. Interpretation of the magnitude and importance of treatment effects beyond statistical significance can, however, be challenging, particularly for patient-reported outcomes (PROs) measured using questionnaires with which clinicians have limited familiarity. The objectives of our study are to systematically evaluate Cochrane systematic review authors’ approaches to calculation, reporting and interpretation of pooled estimates of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) in meta-analyses.
Methods and analysis
We will conduct a methodological survey of a random sample of Cochrane systematic reviews published from 1 January 2015 to 1 April 2017 that report at least one statistically significant pooled result for at least one PRO in the abstract. Author pairs will independently review all titles, abstracts and full texts identified by the literature search, and they will extract data using a standardised data extraction form. We will extract the following: year of publication, number of included trials, number of included participants, clinical area, type of intervention(s) and control(s), type of meta-analysis and use of the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach to rate the quality of evidence, as well as information regarding the characteristics of PROMs, calculation and presentation of PROM effect estimates and interpretation of PROM effect estimates. We will document and summarise the methods used for the analysis, reporting and interpretation of each summary effect measure. We will summarise categorical variables with frequencies and percentages and continuous outcomes as means and/or medians and associated measures of dispersion.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethics approval for this study is not required. We will disseminate the results of this review in peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations.