Evaluation of spin in the abstracts of emergency medicine systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Matthew Ferrell, Jace Schell, Ryan Ottwell, Wade Arthur, Trevor Bickford, Gavin Gardner, Will Goodrich, Timothy F. Platts-Mills, Micah Hartwell, Meghan Sealey, Lan Zhu, Matt Vassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: The objective of this study was to assess for spin - a form of reporting that overemphasizes benefits or downplay harms - within abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses related to the clinical practice of emergency medicine (EM). METHODS: PubMed was searched for systematic reviews and meta-analyses published since 2015 in either EM or general medical journals that examined an aspect of emergency medical care. In a duplicate, masked fashion, article titles and abstracts were screened to determine eligibility based on predetermined inclusion criteria. The included full-text studies were read and evaluated for spin using a previously determined search strategy. Two authors further evaluated study quality using the AMSTAR-2 tool. RESULTS: Our PubMed search identified 478 systematic reviews and meta-analyses, of which a random sample of 200 was selected for data extraction. Spin within the abstract of the manuscript was identified in 34.5% (69/200) of the included reviews. We identified seven of the nine spin types, with two types being most common: (1) conclusion claiming a benefit despite high risk of bias among studies reviewed (19.5% of abstracts), and (2) conclusion claiming a benefit despite reporting bias (14.5%). No significant associations were found between the presence of spin and any of the evaluated study characteristics, the AMSTAR-2 appraisal, or the journal of publication. CONCLUSION: Spin is commonly present in abstracts of EM systematic reviews. The reporting quality for EM systematic reviews requires improvement. Measures should be taken to improve the overall review process and way information is conveyed through abstracts.

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