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Neurosurg Focus. 2005 Oct 15;19(4):E5.

Synthesizing medical evidence: systematic reviews and metaanalyses.

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Neurosurgical Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Systematic reviews and metaanalyses have become increasingly popular ways of summarizing, and sometimes extending, existing medical knowledge. In this review the authors summarize current methods of performing metaanalyses, including the following: formulating a research question; performing a structured literature search and a search for trials not published in the formal medical literature; summarizing and, where appropriate, combining results from several trials; and reporting and presenting results. Topics such as cumulative and Bayesian metaanalysis and metaregression are also addressed. References to textbooks, articles, and Internet resources are also provided. The goal is to assist readers who wish to perform their own metaanalysis or to interpret critically a published example.

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