Reading Between the Lines: A Plastic Surgeon's Guide to Evaluating the Quality of Evidence in Research Publications
Maxwell, G. Patrick
An important component of practicing evidence-based medicine (EBM) in plastic surgery is staying current with published research, an increasingly difficult task given the rapid growth of the literature. This article reviews the methodological aspects specific to the aesthetic surgery field that should be considered when evaluating the quality of evidence in research publications in the context of the level of evidence (LOE) grading scales that are currently used by plastic surgery journals. Reporting the LOE in a research publication can help to highlight the quality of the research and the potential for bias so that the reader may prioritize information accordingly. However, LOE classifications are not an absolute index of the quality of evidence and do not preclude careful evaluation of the study's methods and results in the context of the authors' conclusions. As the application of evidence-based medicine expands in the plastic surgery community, surgeons must be mindful of how to appropriately interpret research findings and assess the utility of applying results to their practice.