OBJECTIVES: We examined the correlation between the quantitative margin analysis of two laboratory test methods (Berlin, Zurich) and the clinical outcome in Class V restorations. METHODS: Prospective clinical studies with an observation period of at least 18 months were searched in the literature, for which laboratory data were also available. The clinical outcome variables were retention loss, marginal discoloration, detectable margins and secondary caries. Forty-four clinical studies matched the inclusion criteria, including 34 adhesive systems for which laboratory data were also present. For both laboratory test methods and the clinical studies, an index was formulated to better compare the in vitro and in vivo results. Linear mixed models which included a random study effect were calculated. As most clinical data were available for 12 and 24 months, the main analysis was restricted to these recall intervals. RESULTS: The comparative analysis revealed a weak correlation between the clinical index and both in vitro indices. The correlation was statistically significant for the Berlin method but not for the Zurich method and only present if studies were compared which used the same composite in the in vitro and in vivo study. When defining specific cut-off values, the prognosis for the good clinical performance of an adhesive system based on in vitro results was 78% (Berlin) or 100% (Zurich). For poor performance it was 67% and 60%, respectively. No correlation was found between both in vitro methods. SIGNIFICANCE: The surrogate parameter "marginal adaptation" of restorations placed in extracted teeth has a mediocre value to predict the clinical performance of an adhesive system in cervical cavities. The composite is an important factor for a successful prediction. The comparison between in vitro/in vivo is sometimes hampered by the great variability of clinical results on the same adhesive system.