A Caution When Evaluating Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses
We would like to draw critical appraisers’ attention to an infrequent but important problem encountered in some systematic reviews—the accuracy of standardized mean differences in some reviews. Meta-analysis of trials that have used different scales to record outcomes of a similar nature requires data transformation to a uniform scale, the standardized mean difference (SMD). Gøtzsche and colleagues, in a review of 27 meta-analyses utilizing SMD found that a high proportion of meta-analyses based on SMDs contained meaningful errors in data extraction and calculation of point estimates. Gøtzsche et al. audited two trials from each review and found that, in 17 meta-analyses (63%), there were errors for at least 1 of the 2 trials examined. We recommend that critical appraisers be aware of this issue.
1. Gøtzsche PC, Hróbjartsson A, Maric K, Tendal B. Data extraction errors in meta-analyses that use standardized mean differences. JAMA. 2007 Jul 25;298(4):430-7. Erratum in: JAMA. 2007 Nov 21;298(19):2264. PubMed PMID:17652297.