The use of GRADE approach in Cochrane reviews of TCM was insufficient: a cross-sectional survey
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OBJECTIVE: To conduct a cross-sectional survey on the application status of the Grades of Recommendations Assessment Development and Evaluation (GRADE) in Cochrane systematic reviews (CSRs) of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: We searched CSRs of TCM from the inception to December 2020 in the Cochrane Library database. General characteristics and details of GRADE were extracted. RESULTS: Among 226 CSRs of TCM, 86 (38.05%) involving 711 outcomes used GRADE to rate the certainty of evidence. Topics mainly focused on genitourinary diseases (17.44%), diseases of the musculoskeletal system or connective tissue (11.63%), and diseases of the nervous system (10.47%). Only 15.89% of the outcomes reported high or moderate certainty of evidence. Acupuncture was the most common intervention. There were no significant differences in evidence certainty between acupuncture and non-acupuncture, between TCM alone and integrated Chinese and western medicine, or between Chinese patent medicines and non-Chinese patent medicines (P > 0.05). Among 1 273 instances of downgrading, 44.62% were due to the risk of bias and 40.14% due to imprecision. CONCLUSION: Overall, GRADE approach is not widely used in CSRs of TCM. The certainty of evidence is generally low to very low, mainly because of the serious risk of bias and imprecision.
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