Evidence-based operations in paediatric surgery

Pediatr Surg Int. 1998 Jul;13(5-6):331-5. doi: 10.1007/s003830050332.


It has been assumed that only 10% of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence. The aim of this study was to determine the type of research evidence supporting operations in a tertiary referral paediatric surgical unit. All patients admitted over a 4-week period to two surgical firms were enrolled in the study. All major operations carried out on each patient since birth were evaluated. Patients for whom a diagnosis was not reached were excluded. A bibliographic database (MEDLINE) was used to search for the articles published between January 1986 and December 1995 on the analysed operations. The type of evidence supporting the operations was classified as follows: I=evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs); II=self-evident intervention (obvious effectiveness not requiring RCTs); III=evidence from prospective and/or comparative studies; IV=evidence from follow-up studies and/or retrospective case series; and V=intervention without substantial evidence for or against results of randomised trials. Seventy operations (32 individual types) were performed on 49 patients (1-5 operations/patient); 18 (26%) were supported by RCTs (type of evidence I). Two patients (3%) received a self-evident intervention (type II); 48 operations (68%) were based on non-randomised prospective or retrospective studies (type III=13%; type IV=55%). Two patients (3%) received an operation not supported by or against convincing scientific evidence (type V). A significant proportion of operations in paediatric surgery is supported by RCTs. However, the vast majority of these trials were conducted on adult patients. Sixty-eight per cent of the operations were based on prospective follow-up studies or retrospective case series, which may not represent solid scientific evidence. More RCTs are needed in paediatric surgery.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics / standards*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / standards*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data