A new type of research, termed meta-analysis, attempts to analyze and combine the results of previous reports. We found 86 meta-analyses of reports of randomized controlled trials in the English-language literature. We evaluated the quality of these meta-analyses, using a scoring method that considered 23 items in six major areas--study design, combinability, control of bias, statistical analysis, sensitivity analysis, and application of results. Only 24 meta-analyses (28 percent) addressed all six areas, 31 (36 percent) addressed five, 25 (29 percent) addressed four, 5 (6 percent) addressed three, and 1 (1 percent) addressed two. Of the 23 individual items, between 1 and 14 were addressed satisfactorily (mean +/- SD, 7.7 +/- 2.7). We conclude that an urgent need exists for improved methods in literature searching, quality evaluation of trials, and synthesizing of the results.