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Meta-Analysis in Clinical Research

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Grant support: in part by grant HS-05374-01 from the National Center for Health Services Research and Health Care Technology Assessment, and by the National Health Research and Development Program (Canada) through a National Health Ph.D. fellowship to Dr. L'Abbé and a National Health Research Scholar award to Dr. Detsky.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Kristan A. L'Abbé, M.Sc.; Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics, McMurrich Building, 4th Floor, University of Toronto; Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ann Intern Med. 1987;107(2):224-233. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-107-2-224
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Meta-analysis is the process of combining study results that can be used to draw conclusions about therapeutic effectiveness or to plan new studies. We review important design and statistical issues of this process. The design issues include protocol development, objectives, literature search, publication bias, measures of study outcomes, and quality of the data. The statistical issues include consistency (homogeneity) of study outcomes, and techniques for pooling results from several studies. Guidelines are provided to assess the quality of meta-analyses based on our discussion of the design and statistical issues. Limitations and areas for further development of this approach are discussed; researchers should come to a general agreement on how to conduct meta-analysis. As an explicit strategy for summarizing results, meta-analysis may help clinicians and researchers better understand the findings of clinical studies.





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