Methods and reporting of systematic reviews of comparative accuracy were deficient: a methodological survey and proposed guidance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Research Institute of Primary Care and Health Sciences
  • Keele University


Objective: To examine methodological and reporting characteristics of systematic reviews and meta-analyses which compare diagnostic test accuracy (DTA) of multiple index tests, identify good practice, and develop guidance for better reporting.
Study design and setting: Methodological survey of 127 comparative or multiple tests reviews published in 74 different general medical and specialist journals. We summarised methods and reporting characteristics that are likely to differ between reviews of a single test and comparative reviews. We then developed guidance to enhance reporting of test comparisons in DTA reviews.
Results: Of 127 reviews, 16 (13%) reviews restricted study selection and test comparisons to comparative accuracy studies while the remaining 111 (87%) reviews included any study type. Fifty three reviews (42%) statistically compared test accuracy with only 18 (34%) of these using recommended methods. Reporting of several items—in particular the role of the index tests, test comparison strategy and limitations of indirect comparisons (i.e. comparisons involving any study type)—was deficient in many reviews. Five reviews with exemplary methods and reporting were identified.
Conclusions: Reporting quality of reviews which evaluate and compare multiple tests is poor. The guidance developed, complemented with the exemplars, can assist review authors in producing better quality comparative reviews.

Running title: Methods and reporting of systematic reviews of comparative accuracy


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Early online date13 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Dec 2019


  • comparative accuracy, diagnostic accuracy, test accuracy, meta-analysis, systematic review, test comparison