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1.  External Validation of a Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(12):e1350.
Thousands of systematic reviews have been conducted in all areas of health care. However, the methodological quality of these reviews is variable and should routinely be appraised. AMSTAR is a measurement tool to assess systematic reviews.
AMSTAR was used to appraise 42 reviews focusing on therapies to treat gastro-esophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, and other acid-related diseases. Two assessors applied the AMSTAR to each review. Two other assessors, plus a clinician and/or methodologist applied a global assessment to each review independently.
The sample of 42 reviews covered a wide range of methodological quality. The overall scores on AMSTAR ranged from 0 to 10 (out of a maximum of 11) with a mean of 4.6 (95% CI: 3.7 to 5.6) and median 4.0 (range 2.0 to 6.0). The inter-observer agreement of the individual items ranged from moderate to almost perfect agreement. Nine items scored a kappa of >0.75 (95% CI: 0.55 to 0.96). The reliability of the total AMSTAR score was excellent: kappa 0.84 (95% CI: 0.67 to 1.00) and Pearson's R 0.96 (95% CI: 0.92 to 0.98). The overall scores for the global assessment ranged from 2 to 7 (out of a maximum score of 7) with a mean of 4.43 (95% CI: 3.6 to 5.3) and median 4.0 (range 2.25 to 5.75). The agreement was lower with a kappa of 0.63 (95% CI: 0.40 to 0.88). Construct validity was shown by AMSTAR convergence with the results of the global assessment: Pearson's R 0.72 (95% CI: 0.53 to 0.84). For the AMSTAR total score, the limits of agreement were −0.19±1.38. This translates to a minimum detectable difference between reviews of 0.64 ‘AMSTAR points’. Further validation of AMSTAR is needed to assess its validity, reliability and perceived utility by appraisers and end users of reviews across a broader range of systematic reviews.
PMCID: PMC2131785  PMID: 18159233
2.  Development of AMSTAR: a measurement tool to assess the methodological quality of systematic reviews 
Our objective was to develop an instrument to assess the methodological quality of systematic reviews, building upon previous tools, empirical evidence and expert consensus.
A 37-item assessment tool was formed by combining 1) the enhanced Overview Quality Assessment Questionnaire (OQAQ), 2) a checklist created by Sacks, and 3) three additional items recently judged to be of methodological importance. This tool was applied to 99 paper-based and 52 electronic systematic reviews. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify underlying components. The results were considered by methodological experts using a nominal group technique aimed at item reduction and design of an assessment tool with face and content validity.
The factor analysis identified 11 components. From each component, one item was selected by the nominal group. The resulting instrument was judged to have face and content validity.
A measurement tool for the 'assessment of multiple systematic reviews' (AMSTAR) was developed. The tool consists of 11 items and has good face and content validity for measuring the methodological quality of systematic reviews. Additional studies are needed with a focus on the reproducibility and construct validity of AMSTAR, before strong recommendations can be made on its use.
PMCID: PMC1810543  PMID: 17302989
3.  Does updating improve the methodological and reporting quality of systematic reviews? 
Systematic reviews (SRs) must be of high quality. The purpose of our research was to compare the methodological and reporting quality of original versus updated Cochrane SRs to determine whether updating had improved these two quality dimensions.
We identifed updated Cochrane SRs published in issue 4, 2002 of the Cochrane Library. We assessed the updated and original versions of the SRs using two instruments: the 10 item enhanced Overview Quality Assessment Questionnaire (OQAQ), and an 18-item reporting quality checklist and flow chart based upon the Quality of Reporting of Meta-analyses (QUOROM) statement. At least two reviewers extracted data and assessed quality. We calculated the percentage (with a 95% confidence interval) of 'yes' answers to each question. We calculated mean differences in percentage, 95% confidence intervals and p-values for each of the individual items and the overall methodological quality score of the updated and pre-updated versions using OQAQ.
We assessed 53 SRs. There was no significant improvement in the global quality score of the OQAQ (mean difference 0.11 (-0.28; 0.70 p = 0.52)). Updated reviews showed a significant improvement of 18.9 (7.2; 30.6 p < .01) on the OQAQ item assessing whether the conclusions drawn by the author(s) were supported by the data and/or analysis presented in the SR. The QUOROM statement showed that the quality of reporting of Cochrane reviews improved in some areas with updating. Improvements were seen on the items relating to data sources reported in the abstract, with a significant difference of 17.0 (9.8; 28.7 p = 0.01), review methods, reported in the abstract 35 (24.1; 49.1 p = 0.00), searching methods 18.9 (9.7; 31.6 p = 0.01), and data abstraction 18.9 (11.7; 30.9 p = 0.00).
The overall quality of Cochrane SRs is fair-to-good. Although reporting quality improved on certain individual items there was no overall improvement seen with updating and methodological quality remained unchanged. Further improvement of quality of reporting is possible. There is room for improvement of methodological quality as well. Authors updating reviews should address identified methodological or reporting weaknesses. We recommend to give full attention to both quality domains when updating SRs.
PMCID: PMC1569863  PMID: 16772030

Results 1-3 (3)