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Evidence-Based Podiatric Medicine

Importance of Systematic Reviews in Clinical Practice

Fiona Hawke Podiatry Department, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

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Joshua Burns Institute for Neuromuscular Research, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead/Discipline of Paediatric and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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Karl B. Landorf Department of Podiatry and Musculoskeletal Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Due to the exponential increase in the quantity and quality of podiatric medicine–related research during the past decade, podiatric physicians are inundated with an insurmountable volume of research relevant to clinical practice. Systematic reviews can refine this literature by using explicit, rigorous, and reproducible methods to identify, critically appraise, and synthesize the best evidence from all clinical trials to answer clearly defined clinical questions. The Cochrane Collaboration is an international not-for-profit organization created to improve the user-friendliness and accessibility of medical literature mainly through preparing and maintaining systematic reviews of health-care interventions. The Cochrane Library currently contains more than 50 podiatric medicine–relevant systematic reviews summarizing and synthesizing evidence from many hundreds of randomized controlled trials evaluating interventions for foot problems. Although more than 60 countries worldwide have open online access to The Cochrane Library, in the United States, only the state of Wyoming has free access to full-text reviews. In an era demanding an evidence-based approach for every clinical intervention, high-quality systematic reviews streamline podiatric medical literature by reducing the time, cost, and training necessary to establish a solid evidence base for practice. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 99(3): 260–266, 2009)

Corresponding author: Fiona Hawke, BAppSc(Pod)Hons, Health Precinct, PO Box 127, Ourimbah, New South Wales, Australia 2258. (E-mail: Fiona.Hawke@newcastle.edu.au)