• Meta-analysis;
  • review;
  • systematic review;
  • urinary incontinence

Background  The guidance on SUI has not been rigorously assessed using GRADE system.

Objective  To determine if the quality and results of existing systematic reviews on conservative treatment of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) can underpin evidence-based recommendations for practice.

Study design  Review of systematic reviews.

Data sources  Electronic search in PubMed, Medline (OVID 1966-version), CINAHL, Biomed, Psychinfo, the Cochrane library, National Library for Health, the National Research Register and hand search of reference lists.

Methods  Two reviewers independently selected systematic review articles in which a publicly available database was searched for randomised trials on conservative treatment of SUI and assessed them for quality of methods and results (OR and 95% CIs). The extracted information was used to classify strength of evidence as per the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) system.

Results  There were 13 reviews of variable quality. Quality assessment of studies included in the reviews and their findings were adequately tabulated in all but four reviews. Meta-analysis of data was carried out in six reviews. Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) and other physical treatments, estrogens and duloxetine were better than no treatment in SUI. Based on the assessment as per GRADE system, only 2/13 (15.4%) reviews were deemed to be of high quality, 8/13 (61.5%) of moderate quality and 3/13 (23.1%) of low quality. The case for recommendation of PFMT and duloxetine was strong.

Conclusion  Systematic reviews of conservative treatments of SUI are not always suitable to generate robust recommendations for practice as they are weak in methodological quality or lack power to produce reliable results.