Introduction: Network meta-analyses (NMAs) are complex methodological approaches that may be challenging for non-technical end-users, such as policymakers and clinicians, to understand. Consideration should be given to identifying optimal approaches to presenting NMAs that help clarify analyses. It is unclear what guidance researchers currently have on how to present and tailor NMAs to different end-users.
Methods: A systematic review of NMA guidelines was conducted to identify guidance on how to present NMAs. Electronic databases and supplementary sources were searched for NMA guidelines. Presentation format details related to sample formats, target audiences, data sources, analysis methods and results were extracted and frequencies tabulated. Guideline quality was assessed following criteria developed for clinical practice guidelines.
Results: Seven guidelines were included. Current guidelines focus on how to conduct NMAs but provide limited guidance to researchers on how to best present analyses to different end-users. None of the guidelines provided reporting templates. Few guidelines provided advice on tailoring presentations to different end-users, such as policymakers. Available guidance on presentation formats focused on evidence networks, characteristics of individual trials, comparisons between direct and indirect estimates and assumptions of heterogeneity and/or inconsistency. Some guidelines also provided examples of figures and tables that could be used to present information.
Conclusions: Limited guidance exists for researchers on how best to present NMAs in an accessible format, especially for non-technical end-users such as policymakers and clinicians. NMA guidelines may require further integration with end-users' needs, when NMAs are used to support healthcare policy and practice decisions. Developing presentation formats that enhance understanding and accessibility of NMAs could also enhance the transparency and legitimacy of decisions informed by NMAs.