When and how to update systematic reviews

Systematic reviews are most useful when they are regularly updated. It is not clear, however, when updating should be done and which strategies and methods are most cost-effectiveThis review identified strategies and methods used to update systematic reviews. Fifteen articles that documented 4 strategies and 2 statistical methods for updating systematic reviews were found. The 4 strategies have not been compared to one another so their practical performances are unclear.

Little research has been conducted on when and how to update systematic reviews and the feasibility and efficiency of the identified approaches is uncertain. These shortcomings should be addressed in future research.

Authors' conclusions: 

Little research has been conducted on when and how to update systematic reviews and the feasibility and efficiency of the identified approaches is uncertain. These shortcomings should be addressed in future research.

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Background: 

Systematic reviews are most helpful if they are up-to-date. We did a systematic review of strategies and methods describing when and how to update systematic reviews.

Objectives: 

To identify, describe and assess strategies and methods addressing: 1) when to update systematic reviews and 2) how to update systematic reviews.

Search strategy: 

We searched MEDLINE (1966 to December 2005), PsycINFO, the Cochrane Methodology Register (Issue 1, 2006), and hand searched the 2005 Cochrane Colloquium proceedings.

Selection criteria: 

We included methodology reports, updated systematic reviews, commentaries, editorials, or other short reports describing the development, use, or comparison of strategies and methods for determining the need for updating or updating systematic reviews in healthcare.

Data collection and analysis: 

We abstracted information from each included report using a 15-item questionnaire. The strategies and methods for updating systematic reviews were assessed and compared descriptively with respect to their usefulness, comprehensiveness, advantages, and disadvantages.

Main results: 

Four updating strategies, one technique, and two statistical methods were identified. Three strategies addressed steps for updating and one strategy presented a model for assessing the need to update. One technique discussed the use of the "entry date" field in bibliographic searching. Statistical methods were cumulative meta-analysis and predicting when meta-analyses are outdated.

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