BACKGROUND: There is a growing concern about satisfaction with inpatient psychiatric services. There are currently numerous satisfaction instruments available to psychiatric inpatients, but little guidance on which among them to select. AIMS: To provide an overview of the psychometric properties and the content of satisfaction instruments available to psychiatric inpatients. METHODS: Systematic searches of Medline database to identify inpatient satisfaction questionnaires. Assessment of the instruments according to relevant psychometric properties. RESULTS: Fifteen satisfaction instruments were identified. The target population differed according to the instrument. Methods used to generate items were heterogeneous. These instruments were based on a mixed approach including patients' points of view, expert opinions, and literature reviews, causing the content of questionnaires to vary. Reliability and validity were not systematically tested. CONCLUSION: The validation of a common inpatient satisfaction instrument is a major challenge. Recommendations for the future development of satisfaction instruments may include: item generation based exclusively on the patient's point of view; a validation process on a large and representative population; and an instrument combining generic (core questionnaire) and specific (additional modules) approaches.