BackgroundMendelian randomization (MR) studies using Genetic risk scores (GRS) as an instrumental variable (IV) have increasingly been used to control for unmeasured confounding in observational healthcare databases. However, proper reporting of methodological issues is sparse in these studies. We aimed to review published papers related to MR studies and identify reporting problems.
MethodsWe conducted a systematic review using the clinical articles published between 2009 and 2019. We searched PubMed, Scopus, and Embase databases. We retrieved information from every MR study, including the tests performed to evaluate assumptions and the modelling approach used for estimation. Using our inclusion/exclusion criteria, finally, we identified 97 studies to conduct the review according to the PRISMA statement.
ResultsOnly 66 (68%) of the studies empirically verified the first assumption (Relevance assumption), and 40 (41.2%) studies reported the appropriate tests (e.g., R2, F-test) to investigate the association. A total of 35.1% clearly stated and discussed theoretical justifications for the second and third assumptions. 30.9% of the studies used a two-stage least square, and 11.3% used the Wald estimator method for estimating IV. Also, 44.3% of the studies conducted a sensitivity analysis to illuminate the robustness of estimates for violations of the untestable assumptions.
ConclusionsWe found that incompleteness of the justification of the assumptions for the instrumental variable in MR studies was a common problem in our selected studies. This may misdirect the findings of the studies.