UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Disorganized Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses: Time to Systematize the Conduct and Publication of These Study Overviews

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Division of Epidemiology; Meyers Primary Care Institute

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Services Research | Scholarly Publishing


The number of meta-analyses published annually has increased more than 20-fold between 1994 (n = 386) and 2014 (n = 8203). In examining how much of this increase in meta-analysis publication has genuinely represented novel contributions to clinical medicine and public health, it became clear that there was an abundance of redundant and disorganized meta-analyses, creating confusion and generating considerable debate. Ironically, meta-analyses, which should prevent redundant research, have become a victim of it. Recently, 17 meta-analyses were published based on the results of only 3 randomized controlled trials that studied the role of transcatheter closure of patent foramen ovale for prevention of cryptogenic stroke. In our search of the published literature, we identified at least 10 topics that were the subject of 10 meta-analyses. In the context of overlapping meta-analyses, one questions what needs to be done to put this "runaway train" back on track. In this review we examine the practice of redundant meta-analyses and the reasons for its disturbing "popularity." The registration of systematic reviews should be mandatory in prospective registries, such as PROSPERO, and the PRISMA checklist should be updated to incorporate new evidence and mandate the reference of previously published reviews and rationale for any new study.


Meta-Analyses, Recommendations, Redundant, Systematic reviews

DOI of Published Version



Am J Med. 2016 Mar;129(3):339.e11-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2015.10.009. Epub 2015 Oct 29. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The American journal of medicine

PubMed ID