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Predictive distributions were developed for the extent of heterogeneity in meta-analyses of continuous outcome data

Rhodes, KM; Turner, RM; Higgins, JPT; (2015) Predictive distributions were developed for the extent of heterogeneity in meta-analyses of continuous outcome data. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology , 68 (1) pp. 52-60. 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.08.012. Green open access

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Estimation of between-study heterogeneity is problematic in small meta-analyses. Bayesian meta-analysis is beneficial because it allows incorporation of external evidence on heterogeneity. To facilitate this, we provide empirical evidence on the likely heterogeneity between studies in meta-analyses relating to specific research settings. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Our analyses included 6,492 continuous-outcome meta-analyses within the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. We investigated the influence of meta-analysis settings on heterogeneity by modeling study data from all meta-analyses on the standardized mean difference scale. Meta-analysis setting was described according to outcome type, intervention comparison type, and medical area. Predictive distributions for between-study variance expected in future meta-analyses were obtained, which can be used directly as informative priors. RESULTS: Among outcome types, heterogeneity was found to be lowest in meta-analyses of obstetric outcomes. Among intervention comparison types, heterogeneity was lowest in meta-analyses comparing two pharmacologic interventions. Predictive distributions are reported for different settings. In two example meta-analyses, incorporating external evidence led to a more precise heterogeneity estimate. CONCLUSION: Heterogeneity was influenced by meta-analysis characteristics. Informative priors for between-study variance were derived for each specific setting. Our analyses thus assist the incorporation of realistic prior information into meta-analyses including few studies.

Type: Article
Title: Predictive distributions were developed for the extent of heterogeneity in meta-analyses of continuous outcome data
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.08.012
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.08.012
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Meta-analysisHeterogeneity, Intervention studies, Bayesian analysis, Continuous dataStandardized mean difference
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology > MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10050237
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