Gaps in the evidence for treatment decisions in cystic fibrosis: A systematic review

Nicola Jane Rowbotham, Sherie Smith, Andrew P. Prayle, Karen A. Robinson, Alan Robert Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a multisystem disorder. Treatment is complex and evidence for treatment decisions may be absent. Characterising gaps in the research evidence will highlight treatment uncertainties and help prioritise research questions. We systematically identified the evidence gaps for treatment decisions in CF. Methods We searched for systematic reviews and guidelines on treatment interventions in CF. Two researchers identified eligible reviews with arbitration from a third. Using a structured framework, we extracted and characterised evidence gaps. Results There were 73 reviews and 21 guidelines that met our inclusion criteria. From these, we identified 148 evidence gaps across a range of treatment areas. We found 111 evidence gaps through systematic reviews and a further 37 from guidelines. The reason for an evidence gap could only be reliably characterised for systematic reviews. In most cases, there was more than one explanation - most commonly few or no trials (97/111 evidence gaps). Other important factors leading to evidence gaps were small sample size (49/111), inadequate duration of follow-up (38/111) or intervention (37/111) and factors relating to outcomes (35/111). Evidence gaps from both systematic reviews and guidelines fell into the following categories: Respiratory (91); Gastrointestinal (20); PhysiotherapyandExercise (16); Musculoskeletal (6); Endocrine (4); Basic defect of CF (8); Psychosocial (2); Ears, Nose and Throat (1). Conclusions We have compiled an up-to-date list of treatment uncertainties in CF and the reasons for these uncertainties. These can be used as a resource to aid researchers and funders when planning future trials. PROSPERO registration number Pre-results; CRD42015030111.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-236
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • cystic fibrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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