Towards core outcome set (COS) development: a follow-up descriptive survey of outcomes in Cochrane reviews

Francesca Wuytack, Valerie Smith, Mike Clarke, Paula Williamson, Elizabeth Gargon

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BACKGROUND: A core outcome set (COS) can address problems of outcome heterogeneity and outcome reporting bias in trials and systematic reviews, including Cochrane reviews, helping to reduce waste. One of the aims of the international Core Outcome Measures in Effectiveness Trials (COMET) Initiative is to link the development and use of COS with the outcomes specified and reported in Cochrane reviews, including the outcomes listed in the summary of findings (SoF) tables. As part of this work, an earlier exploratory survey of the outcomes of newly published 2007 and 2011 Cochrane reviews was performed. This survey examined the use of COS, the variety of specified outcomes, and outcome reporting in Cochrane reviews by Cochrane Review Group (CRG). To examine changes over time and to explore outcomes that were repeatedly specified over time in Cochrane reviews by CRG, we conducted a follow-up survey of outcomes in 2013 Cochrane reviews.

METHODS: A descriptive survey of outcomes in Cochrane reviews that were first published in 2013. Outcomes specified in the methods sections and reported in the results section of the Cochrane reviews were examined by CRG. We also explored the uptake of SoF tables, the number of outcomes included in these, and the quality of the evidence for the outcomes.

RESULTS: Across the 50 CRGs, 375 Cochrane reviews that included at least one study specified a total of 3142 outcomes. Of these outcomes, 32 % (1008) were not reported in the results section of these reviews. For 23 % (233) of these non-reported outcomes, we did not find any reason in the text of the review for this non-report. Fifty-seven percent (216/375) of reviews included a SoF table.

CONCLUSIONS: The proportion of specified outcomes that were reported in Cochrane reviews had increased in 2013 (68 %) compared to 2007 (61 %) and 2011 (65 %). Importantly, 2013 Cochrane reviews that did not report specified outcomes were twice as likely to provide an explanation for why the outcome was not reported. There has been an increased uptake of SoF tables in Cochrane reviews. Outcomes that were repeatedly specified in Cochrane reviews by CRG in 2007, 2011, and 2013 may assist COS development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
Number of pages9
JournalSystematic Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2015


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