A systematic review of the quality of conduct and reporting of survival analyses of tuberculosis outcomes in Africa
Ngari MM, Schmitz S, Maronga C, Mramba LK, Vaillant M
BMC Med Res Methodol. 2021;21
BACKGROUND: Survival analyses methods (SAMs) are central to analysing time-to-event outcomes. Appropriate application and reporting of such methods are important to ensure correct interpretation of the data. In this study, we systematically review the application and reporting of SAMs in studies of tuberculosis (TB) patients in Africa. It is the first review to assess the application and reporting of SAMs in this context. METHODS: Systematic review of studies involving TB patients from Africa published between January 2010 and April 2020 in English language. Studies were eligible if they reported use of SAMs. Application and reporting of SAMs were evaluated based on seven author-defined criteria. RESULTS: Seventy-six studies were included with patient numbers ranging from 56 to 182,890. Forty-three (57%) studies involved a statistician/epidemiologist. The number of published papers per year applying SAMs increased from two in 2010 to 18 in 2019 (P = 0.004). Sample size estimation was not reported by 67 (88%) studies. A total of 22 (29%) studies did not report summary follow-up time. The survival function was commonly presented using Kaplan-Meier survival curves (n = 51, (67%) studies) and group comparisons were performed using log-rank tests (n = 44, (58%) studies). Sixty seven (91%), 3 (4.1%) and 4 (5.4%) studies reported Cox proportional hazard, competing risk and parametric survival regression models, respectively. A total of 37 (49%) studies had hierarchical clustering, of which 28 (76%) did not adjust for the clustering in the analysis. Reporting was adequate among 4.0, 1.3 and 6.6% studies for sample size estimation, plotting of survival curves and test of survival regression underlying assumptions, respectively. Forty-five (59%), 52 (68%) and 73 (96%) studies adequately reported comparison of survival curves, follow-up time and measures of effect, respectively. CONCLUSION: The quality of reporting survival analyses remains inadequate despite its increasing application. Because similar reporting deficiencies may be common in other diseases in low- and middle-income countries, reporting guidelines, additional training, and more capacity building are needed along with more vigilance by reviewers and journal editors.