Journal impact factor is associated with PRISMA endorsement, but not with the methodological quality of low back pain systematic reviews: a methodological review

  • Dafne Port NascimentoEmail author
  • Gabrielle Zoldan Gonzalez
  • Amanda Costa Araujo
  • Leonardo Oliveira Pena Costa
Review Article



To analyze the association of impact factor of the journals publishing low back pain systematic reviews with whether these journals endorsed the PRISMA recommendations and the reviews methodological quality.


We searched the Physiotherapy Evidence Database on January 2018 for all low back pain systematic reviews, published between 2015 and 2017. Our primary outcomes were PRISMA recommendations endorsement by the journal and 2017 journal impact factor. We assessed systematic review methodological quality using the AMSTAR-2 (A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews) and reported descriptive statistics. A multivariate linear regression model was built. We assessed 66 systematic reviews published in 42 journals. Thirty-seven journals had an impact factor (mean 4.0, SD 4.8). 55% journals endorsed the PRISMA recommendations. The methodological quality of 75.8% systematic reviews was critically low. Journals with higher impact factor were associated with journals endorsing the PRISMA recommendations (ß 3.7; 95% CI 1.2, 6.3), but were not associated with the reviews’ methodological quality (ß − 0.3; 95% CI − 4.8, 4.3).


Our findings may not be generalized to other study populations and interventions such as medical devices, surgery and medication.


Three out of every four published low back pain systematic reviews had critically low methodological quality. Journals with higher impact factor were associated with journals endorsing the PRISMA recommendations. Clinicians must know how to critically appraise reviews. Journals’ editorial policies should include the assessment of study methodological quality and reporting in the review process of an article.

Graphic abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.


Numerical data Research design Systematic reviews Low back pain 



This work was supported by the Sao Paulo Research Foundation (Grant# 2016/17853-4); Sao Paulo/SP, Brazil. The foundation had no role in the study design, conduct and reporting of the present work.

Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors declare to have no competing interests and declare that 15 out of the 66 reviews involved authors from our research groups or collaborators. However, all reviews were evaluated with the same criteria and rigor.

Supplementary material

586_2019_6206_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (133 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 133 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Masters and Doctoral Programs in Physical TherapyUniversidade Cidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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