We will search for papers published between January 1990 and December 2020 in PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, CINAHL and Scopus, irrespective of the language of publication and geographical origin. A search combination of the fields: ‘Title’, ‘Abstract’ and MeSH/Thesaurus will be applied to ensure the best possible information retrieval. Additional searches will follow using clinical trial registry websites and the bibliography of articles included in the proposed review. The search strategy will include terms based on the population, interventions compared and outcomes. Pre-searches in PubMed to identify search terms and develop a search string were conducted in June–November 2020 and the full search, including all selected databases, will be completed in December 2020. The draft of the preliminary search strategy for PubMed is available as supplementary material (online supplemental file 1).


On uploading the retrieved citations to the Covidence software and removing duplicates, at least two reviewers will independently screen these citations against the above-stated eligibility criteria. Full text of the eligible and potentially eligible studies will be thoroughly screened and assessed for final inclusion. The review authors will resolve disagreements in the study selection process by consensus. In the event of many studies reporting findings on the same population, the one with more relevant information will be chosen. Cabell’s Predatory Report will be informed to verify the scientific status of the open access papers selected for the review.22

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