Reporting quality of Cochrane systematic reviews with Chinese herbal medicines

Xuan Zhang, Qi Ying Aixinjueluo, Si Yao Li, Lisa L. Song, Chung Tai Lau, Ran Tan, Zhaoxiang Bian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Chinese herbal medicines (CHMs) are the major interventions of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which are typically administered as either single herbs or formulas. The Cochrane systematic reviews (SRs) of CHMs are essential references for evaluating the efficacy and safety of CHMs interventions; they are expected to be accurate and reliable. This study aimed to assess the reporting quality of these SRs, particularly whether necessary information related to CHM was adequately reported. Methods: The Cochrane Database was systematically searched for all SRs of CHM that were published up to 31 December 2017. The primary analysis was to assess their reporting quality based on 27-item of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) and 9-item of CHM-related information designed according to TCM theory. Descriptive statistics were additionally used to analyze their baseline characteristics. Results: A total of 109 Cochrane SRs of CHM were identified from 1999 to 2017. For 27-item of PRISMA, 26 had the reporting compliances higher than 50%, of which 11 were fully reporting (100%). However, for CHM-related information, 65 (59.6%) SRs did not report the specific name of the CHM in the title, 42 (38.5%) lacked TCM-related rationales in the introduction, 62 (56.9%) did not include CHM-related characteristics in the additional analyses, and 77 (70.6%) did not analyze CHM results in terms of TCM-related theories in the discussion. Of 97 SRs that included clinical trials, 38 (39.2%) did not provide the details of composition and dosage of CHMs, 85 (87.6%) did not report the CHM sources, 13 (13.4%) did not provide the dosage form, 95 (97.9%) lacked CHM quality control information, and 57 (58.8%) did not describe details of the controls. For 62 (72.9%) of 85 SRs that included meta-analysis, it was impossible to assess whether meta-analysis had been properly conducted due to inadequate reporting of CHM interventions. Conclusion: Although the Cochrane SRs of CHM showed reporting compliance with PRISMA checklist, their reporting quality needs improvement, especially about full reporting of CHM interventions and of TCM-related rationales. Reporting guideline of "PRISMA extension for CHM interventions" should be developed thus to improve their quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number302
Number of pages11
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese herbal medicine (CHM)
  • Cochrane systematic review (CSR)
  • PRISMA statement
  • Reporting quality
  • TCM principles, methods, formulas, and herbs
  • Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)


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