Evaluation of spin in the abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses focused on the treatment of acne vulgaris: Cross-sectional analysis

Ryan Ottwell, Taylor C. Rogers, J. Michael Anderson, Austin Johnson, Matt Vassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Spin is the misrepresentation of study findings, which may positively or negatively influence the reader's interpretation of the results. Little is known regarding the prevalence of spin in abstracts of systematic reviews, specifically systematic reviews pertaining to the management and treatment of acne vulgaris. Objective: The primary objective of this study was to characterize and determine the frequency of the most severe forms of spin in systematic review abstracts and to evaluate whether various study characteristics were associated with spin. Methods: Using a cross-sectional study design, we searched PubMed and EMBASE for systematic reviews focusing on the management and treatment of acne vulgaris. Our search returned 316 studies, of which 36 were included in our final sample. To be included, each systematic review must have addressed either pharmacologic or nonpharmacologic treatment of acne vulgaris. These studies were screened, and data were extracted in duplicate by two blinded investigators. We analyzed systematic review abstracts for the nine most severe types of spin. Results: Spin was present in 31% (11/36) of abstracts. A total of 12 examples of spin were identified in the 11 abstracts containing spin, with one abstract containing two instances of spin. The most common type of spin, selective reporting of or overemphasis on efficacy outcomes or analysis favoring the beneficial effect of the experimental intervention, was identified five times (5/12, 42%). A total of 44% (16/36) of studies did not report a risk of bias assessment. Of the 11 abstracts containing spin, six abstracts (55%) had not reported a risk of bias assessment or performed a risk of bias assessment but did not discuss it. Spin in abstracts was not significantly associated with a specific intervention type, funding source, or journal impact factor. Conclusions: Spin is present in the abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses covering the treatment of acne vulgaris. This paper raises awareness of spin in abstracts and emphasizes the importance of its recognition, which may lead to fewer incidences of spin in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16978
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Keywords

  • Abstracts
  • Acne vulgaris
  • Dermatology
  • Systematic review

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