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Evaluate bias in meta-analysis within meta-epidemiological studies? – Pubrica

Author: Pubrica UK
by Pubrica UK
Posted: Jul 05, 2021


Meta-analysis is a type of statistical approach which synthesizes results from different studies and the final result serves as a much stronger evidence than the one collected from an individual study. It gives an estimate of the success of a newly introduced treatment/ intervention or the risk factors associated with a disease/ line of treatment(Hayden et al., 2021). Thus, it can serve as the best source for evidence-based clinical studies. The studies used in meta-analysis can combine results from systematic review, randomised controlled trials (RCT) etc. Meta epidemiological studies is a new type of method which helps in closing the gap between trials and practice and is a much improved version of systematic review(Page, 2020). They adopt either systematic review or meta-analysis approachand aims to understand the impact of certain factors on the outcome. Thus, they try to confirm or nullify the hypothesis in question.

Bias in meta-analysis within meta-epidemiological studies

In some meta epidemiological studies, the effect of interventions in RCT’s (Randomised Controlled Trials) can be misunderstood leading to underestimation or overestimation of the intervention (Christensen and Berthelsen, 2020). There can be several reasons which have been elaborated bellow-

Bias arising due to randomisation- The procedure of sequence generation or allocation concealment might vary the effects of the introduced interventions. These two factors also affects the in between heterogeneity.

Bias arising due to opting for unintended interventions- This type of bias arises when the participant opts for an intervention different from which they have been randomly allotted for.

In most meta-epidemiological studies, a written protocol for selecting the studies need to be framed before conducting themeta analysis. It is important to include all the related studies as missing out on one can introduce bias and makes the study less effective (Pan et al., 2020). The protocol must focus on the selection criteria (eligibility criteria, type of studies to be included, etc.) of the studies to reduce section bias. Fig 1 depicts a flowchart of selecting studies.

Alongside these, the other important points to be included in the protocol are objectives of the study, hypothesis to be tested etc(Steenland et al., 2020). According to some authors, it can be quite tricky to combine different study designs of meta-epidemiological studies in a meta-analysis and thus have stated "a meta-analysis may give a precise estimate of average bias, rather than an estimate of the intervention’s effect" and that "heterogeneity between study results may reflect differential biases rather than true differences in an intervention’s effect".In order to understand the amount of bias that might have impacted the study outcome, it has been unanimously agreed upon that all the non-randomized and observational studies included in the meta-analysis should be assessed(Puljak et al., 2020). But there has been no proper agreement on the guidelines of assessing the risk of bias in different meta-analyses(Mathur and VanderWeele, 2021).


The bias which arises during different steps of the meta-analysis must be addressed as this might report contradictory results. It must be noted that false reports can impact medical research which can be fatal in few aspects. The problem with meta-epidemiological study lies in the fact that when the number of studies reduces, the statistical power also reduces.

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Author: Pubrica UK

Pubrica UK

Member since: Jul 29, 2019
Published articles: 96

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