Evaluating the quality of systematic reviews in the emergency medicine literature

Ann Emerg Med. 2001 Nov;38(5):518-26. doi: 10.1067/mem.2001.115881.


Study objective: The objective of this study was to examine the scientific quality of systematic reviews published in 5 leading emergency medicine journals.

Methods: MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were electronically searched to identify published systematic reviews. Searches were only conducted in emergency medicine journals during the past 10 years; 4 of the journals were also hand searched. Potential reviews were assessed independently by 2 reviewers for inclusion. Data regarding methods were extracted from each review independently by 2 reviewers. All systematic reviews were retrieved and rated for quality by using the 10 questions from the overview quality assessment questionnaire.

Results: Twenty-nine reviews were identified from more than 100 citations. The overall scientific quality of the systematic reviews was low (mean score, 2.7; 95% confidence interval 2.1 to 3.2; maximum possible score, 7.0). Selection and publication biases were rarely addressed in this collection of reviews. For example, the search strategies were only identified in 9 (31%) reviews, whereas independent study selection (6 [21%]) and quality assessment of included studies (9 [31%]) were infrequently performed. Overall, the majority of reviews had extensive flaws, and only 3 (10%) had minimal flaws.

Conclusion: The results of the study indicate that many of the systematic reviews published in the emergency medicine literature contain major flaws; reviews with poor methodology may limit the validity of reported results. Further efforts should be made to improve the design, reporting, and publication of systematic reviews in emergency medicine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Information Systems
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Publishing / standards*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Quality Control
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • United States