For a better overview in occupational medicine
Systematic reviews clearly summarize the current knowledge on various topics, such as therapy and prevention. This considerably facilitates the work of physicians and scientists in the everyday practice.
The number of available scientific publications increases every year, which means that the challenge for medical practitioners, clinicians and scientists to provide comprehensively and up-to-date information on a medical topic is growing as well. It is, therefore, necessary to systematically summarize and to critically evaluate individual studies on the same topic.
Systematic reviews facilitate the work of evidence-based medicine. Frequently, a systematic review is the sole means of adequately answering questions in everyday practice.
Systematic reviews can be on various topics. In medicine they are mainly mainly estab-lished in the field of therapy and prevention. The summarised evidence provides a solid basis for clinical and health policy decisions and facilitates the transfer of knowledge from research to practice. Recommendations in medical guidelines, for example, are frequently based on systematically summarised evidence. Examples of systematic reviews are systematic reviews, overviews of systematic reviews and scoping reviews.
In a systematic review, all primary studies on a clearly formulated question are searched for systematically and selected in accordance with specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. The studies that are included are assessed critically, the research findings are extracted and summarised descriptively or quantitatively as well with the help of statistical methods (meta-analysis). Not every systematic review results in a meta-analysis.
Explained by the publication of countless systematic reviews, a new type of evidence synthesis was developed that summarises knowledge on the basis of already published reviews. These overviews (also referred to as "review of reviews") are developed basically in accordance with the same methodological standards that apply to the creation of systematic reviews. However, different quality assessment instruments to those for primary studies are necessary to assess the quality of the reviews that are included.
A scoping review is suitable in particular for a broad and complete compilation of the current evidence basis for a subject. Starting from a question that is formulated as generally as possible, the complete evidence is systematically collected, structured and described qualitatively. Gaps in research can be identified on the basis of the overall view of the scientific facts, and in further steps systematic reviews can be prepared on specific questions in the subject area under examination with or without meta-analyses or overviews.
Cochrane is regarded as a trustworthy and high quality source for systematic reviews. Cochrane reviews are systematic overviews in which the research findings on questions of healthcare provision are summarised. These reviews are internationally recognised as a quality standard in evidence-based healthcare provision. They are occupied with the efficacy of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
Other reviews assess the accuracy of diagnostic tests with a given disease in specific patient groups or settings. They are published online in the Cochrane Library.
Each systematic review deals with a clearly formulated question, for example: do antibiotics help to alleviate the symptoms of a sore throat?
To answer this question, all primary research studies that satisfy specific criteria are compiled. These are then assessed by means of stringent guidelines, in order to establish whether there is logical evidence for a given treatment.
The Partnership for European Research in Occupational Safety and Health (PEROSH) makes a further collection of systematic reviews available specifically for the subject area of occupational safety and health.
Systematic overviews on current subjects and questions are also drawn up in the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and made publicly accessible.