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Systematic reviews as a tool for planning and interpreting trials

Bath, Philip M.W.; Gray, Laura J.


Stroke Association Professor of Stroke Medicine

Laura J. Gray


Background Systematic reviews followed by ameta-analysis
are carried out in medical research to combine the results of two or more related studies. Stroke trials have struggled to show beneficial effects and meta-analysis should be used more widely throughout the research process to either speed up the development of useful interventions, or halt more quickly research with hazardous or ineffective interventions.

Summary of review. This review summarises the clinical research process and illustrates how and when systematic
reviews may be used throughout the development programme.
Meta-analyses should be performed after observational
studies, preclinical studies in experimental stroke, and
after phase I, II, and III clinical trials and phase IV clinical surveillance studies. Although meta-analyses most commonly work with summary data, they may be performed to assess relationships between variables (meta-regression) and, ideally, should utilise individual patient data. Meta-analysis techniques may alsoworkwith ordered categorical outcome data (ordinal meta-analysis) and be used to perform indirect comparisons where original trial data do not exist.

Conclusion Systematic review/meta-analyses are powerful
tools in medical research and should be used throughout
the development of all stroke and other interventions


Bath, P. M., & Gray, L. J. (2009). Systematic reviews as a tool for planning and interpreting trials. International Journal of Stroke, 4(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2009
Deposit Date Apr 23, 2009
Publicly Available Date Apr 23, 2009
Journal International Journal of Stroke
Print ISSN 1747-4930
Electronic ISSN 1747-4949
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 1
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The definitive version is available at:


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