Meta-Analytic Research Group, School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia University, PO Box 9190, Morgantown, WV, 26506-9190, USA. [Email]
Given the plethora of studies today on the same topic, clinicians in rheumatology as well as others increasingly rely on systematic reviews, with or without meta-analysis, to aid in their evidence-based decision-making. However, given time constraints, staying up-to-date on current methods for conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses as well as interpreting the results of these reviews for application in clinical practice can be challenging. The purpose of this paper is to try and address this gap. In this paper, a description of the different types of systematic reviews and meta-analyses is provided as well as a description of the major elements, including methodology and interpretation of systematic reviews with meta-analyses. Included is a broad, five-question checklist to aid clinicians in rheumatology for making decisions about the utility of a systematic review. It is the hopes that this paper will aid clinicians in rheumatology as well as other consumers of systematic reviews and meta-analyses with the information necessary for judging the utility of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in their own work.