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Study protocol for a network meta-analysis of digital-technology-based psychotherapies for PTSD in adults
  1. Longtao He1,
  2. Yanling Geng2,
  3. Yangu Pan1,
  4. Jinhui Tian3,
  5. Xinyu He4,
  6. Xiangshu Deng1,
  7. Wenjie Duan5,
  8. Huamin Peng6
  1. 1Research Institute of Social Development, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
  2. 2Department of Social Work, Northwest University, Xi'an, Shanxi, China
  3. 3Evidence-Based Medicine Centre & School of Basic Science, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu, China
  4. 4School of Social Development, Xihua University, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
  5. 5Department of Social Work, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China
  6. 6Department of Social Work and Social Policy, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Longtao He; lzhlt01{at}


Introduction Studies on various types of digital-technology-based psychotherapies (DTPs) have indicated that they are effective for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom relief among adults. The intervention efficacy or effectiveness hierarchy, however, is still not clear. Therefore, we propose to conduct a network meta-analysis to assess the relative effectiveness of various types of DTPs. We aim to establish the differential effectiveness of these therapies in terms of symptom reduction and provide high-quality evidence for treating PTSD.

Methods and analyses We will search Embase, CINAHL, MEDLINE, HealthSTAR, the Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, PubMed, the Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, clinical trials (eg, and other academic platforms for relevant studies, mainly in English and Chinese (as we plan to conduct a trial on PTSD patients in Wuhan, China, based on the results of this network meta-analysis), from inception to October 2020. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and meta-analyses investigating the effectiveness of any DTPs for PTSD patients for any controlled condition will be included. The number of intervention sessions and the research duration are unlimited; the effects for different durations will be tested via sensitivity analysis. For this project, the primary measure of outcome will be PTSD symptoms at the end of treatment using raw scores for one widely used PTSD scale, PCL-5. Secondary outcome measures will include (1) dropout rate; (2) effectiveness at longest follow-up, but not more than 12 months and (3) patients’ functional recovery ratio (such as the return-to-work ratio or percentage of sick leave). Bayesian network meta-analysis will be conducted for all relative outcome measures. We will perform subgroup analysis and sensitivity analysis to see whether the results are influenced by study characteristics. The Grading of Recommendations, Assessments, Development, and Evaluation framework will be adopted to evaluate the quality of evidence contributing to network estimates of the primary outcome.

Ethics and dissemination The researchers of the primary trials already have had ethical approval for the data used in our study. We will present the results of this meta-analysis at academic conferences and publish them in peer-reviewed journals.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42020173253.

  • mental health
  • therapeutics
  • depression & mood disorders

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  • Contributors LH conceived the project design and drafted the article. YG and JT assisted with design and revision. LH and JT will conduct most of the data abstraction and the risk-of-bias assessment. JT, YG and YP participated in the design of data synthesis and analysis. HP, WD, XD, XH, YG, and YP will conduct the statistical analysis. All authors have agreed to publish this protocol.

  • Funding This research was funded by the Youth Project of Humanities and Social Sciences (project no. 20XJC840001) of the MOE (Ministry of Education) in China.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study.

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