Levels of Evidence for the Outcome of Nonsurgical Endodontic Treatment

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The purpose of this systematic review was (a) to search for clinical articles pertaining to success and failure of nonsurgical root canal therapy, and (b) to assign levels of evidence to these studies. Electronic and manual searches were conducted to identify studies published between January 1966 and September 2004 with information on the success and failure of nonsurgical root canal therapy. Articles were reviewed and graded for strength of level of evidence (LOE) from one (highest level) to five (lowest level). This review resulted in the identification of 306 clinical studies related to this topic area. Six articles were randomized controlled trials (RCTs, LOE 1). This search also identified 12 low-quality RCTs (LOE 2), 14 cohort studies (LOE 2), five case-control and eight cross sectional studies (LOE 3), four low-quality cohort studies (LOE 4), and five low-quality case-control studies (LOE 4). The majority (73) of the often-quoted “success and failure” studies were case series (LOE 4). The rest of the articles were descriptive epidemiological studies (42), case reports (114), expert opinions (18), literature reviews (4), and one meta-analysis. Based on these findings, it appears that a few high-level studies have been published in the past four decades related to the success and failure of nonsurgical root canal therapy. The data generated by this search can be used in future studies to specifically answer questions and test hypotheses relevant to the outcome of nonsurgical root canal treatment.

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