The Cochrane Neurological Sciences Field has a role in ensuring that Cochrane Review Groups are able to carry out reviews in all areas of neurology in which the need for reviews has been identified. The Cochrane Neurological Sciences Field is committed to helping neurological Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) achieve the targets they set for themselves by supporting their working procedures, maximizing productivity by ensuring that efforts are not duplicated, and disseminating information to appropriate groups. The Cochrane Neurological Sciences Field is not responsible for producing reviews.
The Cochrane Neurological Sciences Field encourages comments and criticism of Cochrane reviews and welcomes suggestions for new review topics from outside entities. This is an important step in ensuring the quality of the work, because the Cochrane Neurological Sciences Field actively encourages neurologists and neurosurgeons to implement the results of Cochrane reviews in their practice and encourages those interested in becoming involved with Cochrane to participate in reviews with neurological Cochrane Review Groups. Among other things, these efforts are intended to strengthen the liaison between Cochrane and the neurological community.
Why do we need systematic reviews in neurology?
There are two primary reasons. First of all, there is so much information available that it is impossible to keep up with all of the developments in neurological care. For example, MEDLINE includes thousands of articles about clinical trials in several neurological disease groups.
Secondly, the risk of bias should be eliminated. The most basic tool used for clinical research is the randomized controlled trial, which was developed specifically to reduce the risk of bias.
Knowledge-based health services require clinical, managerial and policy decisions that are based on sound information about research findings and scientific developments. High-quality, up-to-date systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials of healthcare interventions are of critical importance.
What makes systematic reviews work?
Traditionally, reviews have been written by experts in the field of medicine. Those experts may have strong opinions, which may factor into their conclusions. Systematic reviews reduce the risk of bias by:
- Using an explicit, detailed search strategy to find as many reports of relevant trials as possible
- Carrying out the review according to a written protocol
- Using explicit, pre-specified inclusion/exclusion criteria
- Using standard methods to assess trial quality
- Employing two people to independently extract the data
- Analyzing by synthesis of the actual numerical results whenever possible (also known as meta-analysis)
- Presenting the review in a detailed, clear and transparent fashion so readers can see how conclusions are reached
Systematic reviews often provide the best estimate of what the results of all relevant trials mean. This does not mean they can answer all of our questions. However, they do give us the best summary of current evidence that can be used when making individual treatment decisions or when developing new clinical trials.