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BMJ. 2000 Jun 10;320(7249):1574-7.

Empirical assessment of effect of publication bias on meta-analyses.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 6TP.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the effect of publication bias on the results and conclusions of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

DESIGN:

Analysis of published meta-analyses by trim and fill method.

STUDIES:

48 reviews in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews that considered a binary endpoint and contained 10 or more individual studies.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Number of reviews with missing studies and effect on conclusions of meta-analyses.

RESULTS:

The trim and fill fixed effects analysis method estimated that 26 (54%) of reviews had missing studies and in 10 the number missing was significant. The corresponding figures with a random effects model were 23 (48%) and eight. In four cases, statistical inferences regarding the effect of the intervention were changed after the overall estimate for publication bias was adjusted for.

CONCLUSIONS:

Publication or related biases were common within the sample of meta-analyses assessed. In most cases these biases did not affect the conclusions. Nevertheless, researchers should check routinely whether conclusions of systematic reviews are robust to possible non-random selection mechanisms.

Comment in

PMID:
10845965
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC27401
Free PMC Article

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