Variability in the validity and reliability of outcome measures identified in a systematic review to assess treatment efficacy of cognitive enhancers for Alzheimer’s Dementia
Selection of optimal outcome measures is a critical step in a systematic review; inclusion of uncommon or non-validated outcome measures can impact the uptake of systematic review findings. Our goals were to identify the validity and reliability of outcome measures used in primary studies to assess cognition, function, behaviour and global status; and, to use these data to select outcomes for a systematic review (SR) on treatment efficacy of cognitive enhancers for Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD).
Articles fulfilling the eligibility criteria of the SR were included in a charting exercise to catalogue outcome measures reported. Outcome measures were then assessed for validity and reliability. Two independent reviewers abstracted data on outcome measures and validity and reliability reported for cognition, function, behaviour and global status.
129 studies were included in the charting exercise; 57 outcome measures were identified for cognition, 21 for function, 13 for behaviour and 10 for global status. A total of 35 (61%) cognition measures, 10 (48%) functional measures, 8 (61%) behavioural measures and four (40%) of global status measures were only used once in the literature. Validity and reliability information was found for 51% of cognition measures, 90% of function and global status measures and 100% of behavioural measures.
While a large number of outcome measures were used in primary studies, many of these were used only once. Reporting of validity and reliability varied in AD studies of cognitive enhancers. Core outcome sets should be used when available; when they are not available researchers need to balance frequency of reported outcome measures, their respective validity and reliability, and preferences of knowledge users.
Systematic review registration