Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Pearls for Interpretation, Appraisal, and Application in Clinical Practice

Hannah Yaphe, Dana Wallace, Matthew A. Rank, Eddy Lang

Abstract

Systematic reviews (SR) are a category of literature review that presents a comprehensive synthesis and analysis of all available literature evidence addressing a specific clinical question. Meta-analysis (MA) is a quantitative technique that is applied to data collected through SR that provides an estimate of an effect across a larger population. By synthesizing data from a large number of sources SR and MA often provide insights that cannot be obtained from single studies and can aid in clinical decision-making. However, these techniques are subject to important limitations. Both the validity and the usefulness of the results of an SR/MA depend on the methodological rigor used in preparing the review and the quality of included studies. In applying SR/MA to clinical decision-making the reader should be able to assess these features. Here we present an overview of important concepts in understanding SR and MA. We provide a general approach to interpretation and evaluation of an SR/MA, model the use of a critical appraisal tool for SR, and discuss the applications of SR and MA to clinical practice.

Keywords

  • Allergy-immunology
  • Meta-analysis
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy

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