To evaluate the relative efficacy of an intervention, we typically come across a plethora of randomized control trials. These trials will most probably differ on their sample size, quality, risk of bias and results. We need to make a synopsis of all the available information, and this is achieved with the method of the systematic review, which identifies and evaluates all relevant studies satisfying a-priori defined eligibility criteria. Ideally, we would proceed with a quantitative synthesis of the trials’ results through the statistical method of meta-analysis. A systematic review with meta-analysis lies on top of the pyramid of evidence-based medicine and many international organizations (such as WHO) suggest its use for evaluating the efficacy of an intervention. Meta-analysis has a lot of benefits including an increase in precision and exploring heterogeneity of treatment effects. We can also proceed to subgroup or meta-regression analyses to further explore heterogeneity of treatment effects. We will present the most commonly used meta-analyses models with their benefits, limitations and criticisms.
Introduction to meta-analysis
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