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Evaluating and Interpreting Systematic Reviews in CAM: Acupuncture As An Example

09:00 - 12:00, Orchid C, Terrace Level

Eric Manheimer (1), Susan Weiland (2)

(1): University of Maryland School of Medicine and Cochran Collaboration Complementary Medicine Field, United States

(2):  Center for Evidence-Based Medicine, Brown University, United States


Americans are using CAM therapies now more than ever before. Yet there is a shortage of accessible high-quality evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to show which CAM therapies are effective. The need for such evidence is great, especially among healthcare providers, who often require RCT evidence before recommending a medical treatment. Systematic reviews of RCTs are considered the highest level of medical evidence. Cochrane reviews are often considered the gold standard of systematic reviews. Understanding the factors involved in the preparation and interpretation of high-quality systematic reviews in CAM, particularly Cochrane reviews, will help meet the need for rigorous evidence on the effects of CAM therapies. Using the example of a recently published acupuncture systematic review, which will be provided to participants in advance of the conference, this workshop will examine some of the issues encountered in understanding and interpreting Cochrane-style systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Topics to be covered include evaluating the adequacy of the research question; identifying the often difficult-to-locate CAM trials; defining treatment adequacy; choosing controls; assessing trial quality; and synthesizing information from heterogeneous, complex trials. We will also review research that has been conducted to identify biases that may operate to cause spurious findings in CAM systematic reviews. This workshop will include a presentation component that will introduce participants to the topics covered, as well as a hands-on training exercise that will familiarize participants, first-hand, with some of the challenges of understanding and interpreting a systematic review.