Limitations of previously published systematic reviews evaluating the outcome of endodontic treatment

M.K. Wu, H. Shemesh, P.R. Wesselink

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The aim of this work was to identify the limitations of previously published systematic reviews evaluating the outcome of root canal treatment. Traditionally, periapical radiography has been used to assess the outcome of root canal treatment with the absence of a periapical radiolucency being considered a confirmation of a healthy periapex. However, a high percentage of cases confirmed as healthy by radiographs revealed apical periodontitis on cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) and by histology. In teeth, where reduced size of the existing radiolucency was diagnosed by radiographs and considered to represent periapical healing, enlargement of the lesion was frequently confirmed by CBCT. In clinical studies, two additional factors may have further contributed to the overestimation of successful outcomes after root canal treatment: (i) extractions and re-treatments were rarely recorded as failures; and (ii) the recall rate was often lower than 50%. The periapical index (PAI), frequently used for determination of success, was based on radiographic and histological findings in the periapical region of maxillary incisors. The validity of using PAI for all tooth positions might be questionable, as the thickness of the cortical bone and the position of the root tip in relation with the cortex vary with tooth position. In conclusion, the serious limitations of longitudinal clinical studies restrict the correct interpretation of root canal treatment outcomes. Systematic reviews reporting the success rates of root canal treatment without referring to these limitations may mislead readers. The outcomes of root canal treatment should be re-evaluated in long-term longitudinal studies using CBCT and stricter evaluation criteria.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)656-666
    JournalInternational Endodontic Journal
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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