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Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 2008 Mar;4(3):146-52. doi: 10.1038/ncprheum0732.

Primer: strengths and weaknesses of meta-analysis.

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1
Division of Rheumatology at University Hospitals of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland. axel.finckh@hcuge.ch

Abstract

Properly conducted meta-analyses that are based on systematic reviews of the literature allow the conclusive synthesis of accumulating scientific evidence. Systematic reviews, with or without meta-analyses, offer a more objective appraisal of the available evidence compared with traditional narrative reviews. Combining data from independent studies using meta-analytic methods can improve statistical precision, but cannot prevent bias as such. The validity of meta-analyses depends on the methodological quality of the included studies, the eligibility criteria used for the meta-analysis, and the various reporting biases. In this Review we examine the analytical strengths of, and the main problems encountered by, both systematic reviews and meta-analyses, focusing on how to best assess the validity of each for the practicing clinician.

PMID:
18227829
DOI:
10.1038/ncprheum0732
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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