Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses in CAM

Contribution and Challenges

Published In: Clinical Research in Complementary Therapies, 2nd Edition / edited by George T. Lewith, Wayne B. Jonas, Harald Walach (Edinburgh, New York : Elsevier, 2010), Ch. 6, p. 119-134

Posted on RAND.org on November 23, 2010

by Klaus Linde, Ian D. Coulter

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Every year more than two million articles are published in over 20,000 bio­medical journals. Even in specialty areas it is impossible to keep up to date with all relevant new information. In this situation systematic reviews hold a key position to summarize the state of the current knowledge. A review is systematic if it uses predefined and explicit methods for identifying, selecting and assessing the information (typically research stud­ies) deemed relevant to answer the particular question posed. A systematic review is called a meta-analysis if it includes an integrative statistical analysis (pooling) of the included studies. Within complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), systematic reviews are of major relevance. This chapter aims to give an introduction on how to read and how to do a systematic review or a meta-analysis, and discusses advances and limita­tions of this method.

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