Epidemiology, quality, and reporting characteristics of systematic reviews of acupuncture interventions published in Chinese journals

J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Sep;18(9):813-7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0274.


Background: Systematic reviews (SRs) of acupuncture have become increasingly popular in China in recent years and have been published in large numbers. This review provides the first examination of epidemiological characteristics of these SRs as well as compliance with the PRISMA and AMSTAR guidelines.

Objectives: The study objectives were to examine epidemiological and reporting characteristics as well as methodological quality of SRs of acupuncture published in Chinese journals.

Methods: Four (4) Chinese databases were searched (CBM, CSJD, CJFD, and Wanfang Database) for SRs of Traditional Chinese Medicine, from January 1978 through to December 2010. Data were extracted into Excel spreadsheets. The PRISMA and AMSTAR checklists were used to assess reporting characteristics and methodological quality, respectively.

Results: A total of 88 SRs were identified; none of the reviews had been updated. Less than one third (27.3%) were written by clinicians and one third (35.2%) were reported in specialty journals. The impact factor of 53.4% of the journals published was 0. Information retrieval was not comprehensive in more than half (59.1%) of the reviews. Less than half (36.4%) reported assessing for publication bias. Though 97.7% of the reviews used the term "systematic review" or "meta-analysis" in the title, no reviews reported a protocol and none were updated even after they had been published after 2 or more years.

Conclusions: Although many SRs of acupuncture interventions have been published in Chinese journals, the reporting quality is troubling. Thus, the most urgent strategy is to focus on increasing the standard of SRs of acupuncture interventions, rather than continuing to publish them in great quantity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Authorship
  • Bias
  • China
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Guideline Adherence / standards*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Publishing / standards*
  • Review Literature as Topic*