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Objective: Systematic reviews are increasingly used as sources of evidence in clinical cardiology guidelines. In the present study, we aimed to assess the quality of published systematic reviews in high impact cardiology journals.

Methods: We searched PubMed for systematic reviews published between 2010 and 2019 in five general cardiology journals with the highest impact factor (according to Clarivate Analytics 2019). We extracted data on eligibility criteria, methodological characteristics, bias assessments, and sources of funding. Further, we assessed the quality of retrieved reviews using the AMSTAR tool.

Results: A total of 352 systematic reviews were assessed. The AMSTAR quality score was low or critically low in 71% (95% CI: 65.7–75.4) of the assessed reviews. Sixty-four reviews (18.2%, 95% CI: 14.5–22.6) registered/published their protocol. Only 221 reviews (62.8%, 95% CI: 57.6–67.7) reported adherence to the EQUATOR checklists, 208 reviews (58.4%, 95% CI: 53.9–64.1) assessed the risk of bias in the included studies, and 177 reviews (52.3%, 95% CI: 45.1–55.5) assessed the risk of publication bias in their primary outcome analysis. The primary outcome was statistically significant in 274 (79.6%, 95% CI: 75.1–83.6) and had statistical heterogeneity in 167 (48.5%, 95% CI: 43.3–53.8) reviews. The use and sources of external funding was not disclosed in 87 reviews (24.7%, 95% CI: 20.5–29.5). Data analysis showed that the existence of publication bias was significantly associated with statistical heterogeneity of the primary outcome and that complex design, larger sample size, and higher AMSTAR quality score were associated with higher citation metrics.

Conclusion: Our analysis uncovered widespread gaps in conducting and reporting systematic reviews in cardiology. These findings highlight the importance of rigorous editorial and peer review policies in systematic review publishing, as well as education of the investigators and clinicians on the synthesis and interpretation of evidence.

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© 2021 Abushouk, Yunusa, Elmehrath, Elmatboly, Fayek, Abdelfattah, Saad, Isogai, Shekhar, Kalra, Reed, Puri and Kapadia. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

APA Citation

Abushouk, A. I., Yunusa, I., Elmehrath, A. O., Elmatboly, A. M., Fayek, S. H., Abdelfattah, O. M., Saad, A., Isogai, T., Shekhar, S., Kalra, A., Reed, G. W., Puri, R., & Kapadia, S. (2021). Quality Assessment of published systematic reviews in high impact cardiology journals: Revisiting the evidence pyramid. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 8.