European Radiology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 517–526 | Cite as

Epidemiology of systematic reviews in imaging journals: evaluation of publication trends and sustainability?

  • M. Alabousi
  • A. Alabousi
  • T. A. McGrath
  • K. D. Cobey
  • B. Budhram
  • R. A. Frank
  • F. Nguyen
  • J. P. Salameh
  • A. Dehmoobad Sharifabadi
  • M. D. F. McInnesEmail author



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.

Key Points

• 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.


Meta-analysis Epidemiology/methods and epidemiology/trends Publications/trends Research design/trends Diagnostic imaging/trends 



Diagnostic test accuracy


Individual participant data


Interquartile range


Journal impact factor


Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses


First quartile (25th percentile)


Third quartile (75th percentile)


Systematic review



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).

Informed consent

Written informed consent was not required for this study because this study was an evaluation of published literature.

Ethical approval

Institutional Review Board approval was not required because this study was an evaluation of published literature.


• retrospective

• cross sectional study

• multicenter study

Supplementary material

330_2018_5567_MOESM1_ESM.docx (195 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 195 kb)
330_2018_5567_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (115 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 114 kb)


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Alabousi
    • 1
  • A. Alabousi
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. A. McGrath
    • 3
  • K. D. Cobey
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • B. Budhram
    • 8
  • R. A. Frank
    • 3
  • F. Nguyen
    • 3
  • J. P. Salameh
    • 5
  • A. Dehmoobad Sharifabadi
    • 3
  • M. D. F. McInnes
    • 9
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.St Joseph’s HealthcareHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Centre for Journalology, Clinical Epidemiology Program, The Ottawa Hospital Research InstituteOttawaCanada
  5. 5.School of Epidemiology and Public HealthUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  6. 6.Department of MedicineUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  7. 7.Department of Psychology, School of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  8. 8.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  9. 9.University of Ottawa Department of Radiology, Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research InstituteOttawaCanada

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