Objectives: To examine outcome reporting bias of systematic reviews registered in PROSPERO.
Study design and setting: Retrospective cohort study. The primary outcomes from systematic review publications were compared with those reported in the corresponding PROSPERO records; discrepancies in the primary outcomes were assessed as upgrades, additions, omissions, or downgrades. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated to determine the likelihood of having a change in primary outcome when the meta-analysis result was favorable and statistically significant.
Results: Ninety-six systematic reviews were published. A discrepancy in the primary outcome occurred in 32% of the included reviews and 39% of the reviews did not explicitly specify a primary outcome(s); 6% of the primary outcomes were omitted. There was no significant increased risk of adding/upgrading (RR, 2.14; 95% CI: 0.53, 8.63) or decreased risk of downgrading (RR, 0.76; 95% CI: 0.27, 2.17) an outcome when the meta-analysis result was favorable and statistically significant. As well, there was no significant increased risk of adding/upgrading (RR, 0.89; 95% CI: 0.31, 2.53) or decreased risk of downgrading (RR, 0.56; 95% CI: 0.29, 1.08) an outcome when the conclusion was positive.
Conclusions: We recommend review authors carefully consider primary outcome selection, and journals are encouraged to focus acceptance on registered systematic reviews.
Keywords: Bias; Methodology; Outcome reporting bias; Quality; Reporting; Systematic reviews.
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