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Feasibility scans could improve prioritization and selection of systematic review topics

Date and Location




Sunday 22 September 2013 - 10:30 - 12:00


Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author

Tanja Bekhuis

Contact person

Tanja Bekhuis
Abstract text
Background: Public demand for comparative medical information strains the organizations that produce reviews. Feasibility scans or scoping reviews could reduce the strain by summarizing the volume and nature of extant research, usually without synthesis. Objectives: To assess the prevalence of infeasible Cochrane reviews, as well as evidence for feasibility scans or scoping reviews in the research literature. Methods: We built a stratified random sample where each stratum was a Cochrane Review Group. Specifically, we randomly selected 10 groups and then randomly selected 10 reviews within each group (n=100 reviews). We recorded bibliometric information and the number of studies included in each review. An ‘infeasible review’ was defined as having included 0 or 1 study; thus, synthesis was not possible. To assess publication trends, we retrieved deduplicated Medline and Embase records in that mentioned ‘feasibility scan’ or ‘scoping review’ using the next/1 adjacency operator; this can improve simple string matching. Results: Published assessment dates for Cochrane reviews ranged from 1997 to 2013. The median number of included studies per review was 6 (range: 0, 65); the mode was 0 (Figure 1). The estimated prevalence of infeasible reviews was 18% (90% CI: 14.2%, 21.8%). The term ‘feasibility scan’ did not appear in Embase or Medline, as it may be unique to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. ‘Scoping review’ appeared in 203 records (72 Embase, 131 Medline). Excluding year 2013 as being incomplete, the trend for ‘scoping review’ is exponential and rapidly accelerating (RSQ=.95, P<.001; Figure 2). In the retrieval set, 112 conditions were mentioned; the most frequent were obesity, chronic disease, disability, and depression. Conclusions: Feasibility scans or simple scoping reviews could aid in topic prioritization and selection by review groups. Additionally, reducing the prevalence of infeasible reviews could enhance perceived usefulness by clinicians seeking just-in-time information.