Introduction Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) is defined as the clinical diagnosis of heart failure (HF) and ejection fraction (EF) ≤40%, which is a severe public healthcare issue and brings a heavy social and economic burden for patients with HFrEF. Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) has a long history in treating HF. Questions concerning the efficacy and acceptability of CHM-related interventions in adult patients with HFrEF led us to use the method of systematic review and network meta-analysis to integrate direct and indirect evidence to create hierarchies for all CHM. Methods and analysis Nine medical databases, including PubMed, EMBASE (OVID), the Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, Web of Science, CNKI, VIP, Wanfang Database and CBM will be searched from the date of database inception to June 2015 (updated to March 2017) without language and publication status restriction. Completely randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing CHM or CHM plus routine treatment with CHM, CHM plus routine treatment, routine treatment, no treatment or placebo for adults with HFrEF will be examined. Our primary outcomes will include all-cause mortality, HF-related death, all-cause rehospitalisation, HF-related rehospitalisation and acceptability (discontinuation due to any adverse events during treatment). Secondary outcomes will include response rate, mean value or mean difference from baseline of surrogate indexes. We will perform the Bayesian network meta-analyses (NMA) for the most frequently reported primary or secondary outcome and the acceptability outcome, if available. Meta-regression, subgroup analyses and sensitivity analyses will be conducted based on prespecified effect modifiers to assess the robustness of the findings. Dissemination The results of this NMA will provide useful information about the effectiveness and acceptability of CHM in adults with HFrEF, which will also have implications for clinical practice and further research. Findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal publication and conference presentations. PROSPERO registration number CRD42016053854.
Open access, Complementary medicine