Epidemiology of systematic reviews in imaging journals: evaluation of publication trends and sustainability?
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To evaluate the epidemiology of systematic reviews (SRs) published in imaging journals.
A MEDLINE search identified SRs published in imaging journals from 1 January 2000–31 December 2016. Articles retrieved were screened against inclusion criteria. Demographic and methodological characteristics were extracted from studies. Temporal trends were evaluated using linear regression and Pearson’s correlation coefficients.
921 SRs were included that reported on 27,435 primary studies, 85,276,484 patients and were cited 26,961 times. The SR publication rate increased 23-fold (r=0.92, p<0.001) while the proportion of SRs to non-SRs increased 13-fold (r = 0.94, p<0.001) from 2000 (0.10%) to 2016 (1.33%). Diagnostic test accuracy (DTA) SRs were most frequent (46.5%) followed by therapeutic SRs (16.6%). Most SRs did not report funding status (54.2%). The median author team size was five; this increased over time (r=0.20, p<0.001). Of the studies, 67.3% included an imaging specialist co-author; this decreased over time (r=-0.57, p=0.017). Most SRs included a meta-analysis (69.6%). Journal impact factor positively correlated with SR publication rates (r=0.54, p<0.001). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ‘vascular and interventional radiology’ were the most frequently studied imaging modality and subspecialty, respectively. The USA, UK, China, Netherlands and Canada were the top five publishing countries.
The SR publication rate is increasing rapidly compared with the rate of growth of non-SRs; however, they still make up just over 1% of all studies. Authors, reviewers and editors should be aware of methodological and reporting standards specific to imaging systematic reviews including those for DTA and individual patient data.
• Systematic review publication rate has increased 23-fold from 2000–2016.
• The proportion of systematic reviews to non-systematic reviews has increased 13-fold.
• The USA, UK and China are the most frequent published countries; those from the USA and China are increasing the most rapidly.
KeywordsMeta-analysis Epidemiology/methods and epidemiology/trends Publications/trends Research design/trends Diagnostic imaging/trends
Diagnostic test accuracy
Individual participant data
Journal impact factor
Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses
First quartile (25th percentile)
Third quartile (75th percentile)
University of Ottawa Department of Radiology Research Stipend Program
Compliance with ethical standards
The scientific guarantor of this publication is Matthew McInnes
Conflict of interest
The authors of this article declare no relationships with any companies whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article.
Statistics and biometry
One of the authors has significant statistical expertise (Dr McInnes).
Written informed consent was not required for this study because this study was an evaluation of published literature.
Institutional Review Board approval was not required because this study was an evaluation of published literature.
• cross sectional study
• multicenter study
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