Systematic Review of the Quality of Prognosis Studies in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus




Prognosis studies examine outcomes and/or seek to identify predictors or factors associated with outcomes. Many prognostic factors have been identified in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but few have been consistently found across studies. We hypothesized that this is due to a lack of rigor of study designs. This study aimed to systematically assess the methodologic quality of prognosis studies in SLE.


A search of prognosis studies in SLE was performed using MEDLINE and Embase, from January 1990 to June 2011. A representative sample of 150 articles was selected using a random number generator and assessed by 2 reviewers. Each study was assessed by a risk of bias tool according to 6 domains: study participation, study attrition, measurement of prognostic factors, measurement of outcomes, measurement/adjustment for confounders, and appropriateness of statistical analysis. Information about missing data was also collected.


A cohort design was used in 71% of studies. High risk of bias was found in 65% of studies for confounders, 57% for study participation, 56% for attrition, 36% for statistical analyses, 20% for prognostic factors, and 18% for outcome. Missing covariate or outcome information was present in half of the studies. Only 6 studies discussed reasons for missing data and 2 imputed missing data.


Lack of rigorous study design, especially in addressing confounding, study participation and attrition, and inadequately handled missing data, has limited the quality of prognosis studies in SLE. Future prognosis studies should be designed with consideration of these factors to improve methodologic rigor.