Systematic reviews and meta-analyses in spine surgery, neurosurgery and orthopedics: guidelines for the surgeon scientist

Kevin Phan, Ralph J. Mobbs


The research evidence in the realm of surgery is expanding at a rapid pace, and thus corresponds with an increasing need to critically appraise and synthesize the available literature. Particularly in fields such as spine surgery, neurosurgery and orthopedics which traditionally have little Class I randomized clinical data, reviews are important to pool the available evidence on clinical questions which are otherwise difficult to answer. Whilst systematic reviews and meta-analyses have the potential to provide critical and updated surgical evidence to guide clinical decisions, poorly performed analyses and misinterpretation of such reviews may have a detrimental effect on patient care and outcomes. We present a summary of the critical steps in performing a systematic review and meta-analysis, allowing the surgeon scientist to better interpret and perform their own systematic reviews and meta-analyses.