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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Violent behaviour by forensic psychiatric inpatients is common. We aimed to systematically review the performance of structured risk assessment tools for violence in these settings. METHODS: The nine most commonly used violence risk assessment instruments used in psychiatric hospitals were examined. A systematic search of five databases (CINAHL, Embase, Global Health, PsycINFO and PubMed) was conducted to identify studies examining the predictive accuracy of these tools in forensic psychiatric inpatient settings. Risk assessment instruments were separated into those designed for imminent (within 24 hours) violence prediction and those designed for longer-term prediction. A range of accuracy measures and descriptive variables were extracted. A quality assessment was performed for each eligible study using the QUADAS-2. Summary performance measures (sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, diagnostic odds ratio, and area under the curve value) and HSROC curves were produced. In addition, meta-regression analyses investigated study and sample effects on tool performance. RESULTS: Fifty-two eligible publications were identified, of which 43 provided information on tool accuracy in the form of AUC statistics. These provided data on 78 individual samples, with information on 6,840 patients. Of these, 35 samples (3,306 patients from 19 publications) provided data on all performance measures. The median AUC value for the wider group of 78 samples was higher for imminent tools (AUC 0.83; IQR: 0.71-0.85) compared with longer-term tools (AUC 0.68; IQR: 0.62-0.75). Other performance measures indicated variable accuracy for imminent and longer-term tools. Meta-regression indicated that no study or sample-related characteristics were associated with between-study differences in AUCs. INTERPRETATION: The performance of current tools in predicting risk of violence beyond the first few days is variable, and the selection of which tool to use in clinical practice should consider accuracy estimates. For more imminent violence, however, there is evidence in support of brief scalable assessment tools.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Psychiatry

Publication Date





47 - 53


Adult, Aggression, Female, Forensic Psychiatry, Hospitals, Psychiatric, Humans, Male, Prisoners, Risk Assessment, Sensitivity and Specificity, Violence