Aim Systematic reviews have the potential to map those areas where children are under-represented in surgical research. We aimed to describe and evaluate the quantity, coverage and the quality of conduct and reporting of systematic reviews of surgical procedures in children. Methods We searched four biomedical databases, a systematic review register, reference lists and conducted hand searching to identify relevant reviews. Two reviewers worked independently to critically appraise included studies and abstract data. We assessed reporting quality using the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analysis statement and methodological quality using the Assessment of Multiple SysTemAtic Reviews tool. Results Fifteen systematic reviews were identified, representing 0.01% of all paediatric surgical citations in MEDLINE and Embase. Thirteen of the reviews were Cochrane reviews, and most reviews (12/15) addressed subspecialty interests such as otorhinolaryngology. The median number of included trials per systematic review was four (interquartile range 1 to 9.5), the median number of primary outcomes was 5.5 (interquartile range 3.5 to 7.5). In general, reporting and methodological quality was good although there were several omissions, particularly around completeness of reporting of statistical methods used, and utilisation of quality assessments in analyses. Outcomes were often not clearly defined and descriptions of procedures lacked sufficient detail to determine the similarities and differences among surgical procedures within the contributing trials. Conclusion Systematic reviews of surgical procedures in children are rarely published. To improve the evidence base and guide research agendas, more systematic reviews should be conducted, using standard guidelines for conduct and reporting.
- systematic review