What's in a name? The challenge of describing interventions in systematic reviews: Analysis of a random sample of reviews of non-pharmacological stroke interventions

Tammy C. Hoffmann*, Marion F. Walker, Peter Langhorne, Sally Eames, Emma Thomas, Paul Glasziou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To assess, in a sample of systematic reviews of non-pharmacological interventions, the completeness of intervention reporting, identify the most frequently missing elements, and assess review authors' use of and beliefs about providing intervention information.

Design: Analysis of a random sample of systematic reviews of non-pharmacological stroke interventions; online survey of review authors.

Data sources and study selection: The Cochrane Library and PubMed were searched for potentially eligible systematic reviews and a random sample of these assessed for eligibility until 60 (30 Cochrane, 30 non-Cochrane) eligible reviews were identified.

Data collection: In each review, the completeness of the intervention description in each eligible trial (n = 568) was assessed by 2 independent raters using the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) checklist. All review authors (n = 46) were invited to complete a survey.

Results: Most reviews were missing intervention information for the majority of items. The most incompletely described items were: modifications, fidelity, materials, procedure and tailoring (missing from all interventions in 97%, 90%, 88%, 83% and 83% of reviews, respectively). Items that scored better, but were still incomplete for the majority of reviews, were: 'when and how much' (in 31% of reviews, adequate for all trials; in 57% of reviews, adequate for some trials); intervention mode (in 22% of reviews, adequate for all trials; in 38%, adequate for some trials); and location (in 19% of reviews, adequate for all trials). Of the 33 (71%) authors who responded, 58% reported having further intervention information but not including it, and 70% tried to obtain information.

Conclusions: Most focus on intervention reporting has been directed at trials. Poor intervention reporting in stroke systematic reviews is prevalent, compounded by poor trial reporting. Without adequate intervention descriptions, the conduct, usability and interpretation of reviews are restricted and therefore, require action by trialists, systematic reviewers, peer reviewers and editors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number009051
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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