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Interpreting data from meta-analyses: Principles and pitfalls Volume 15, issue 3, Juillet-Août-Septembre 2023

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Authors
1 Lille Catholic University, FLSH, Lille, France, ETHICS (EA7446)
2 Lille Catholic University, FLSH, Lille, France, ETHICS (EA7446), Groupement des hôpitaux de l’Institut catholique de Lille (GHICL), Neurology department, Lille, France
* Correspondance : B. Degraeve

A meta-analysis is a statistical synthesis of the results produced by various previous studies on a specific research question. It can be a powerful tool, as it helps to overcome the problems caused by conflicting or non-significant evidence, and generates a more useful and convincing result than a single study. In the current context of exponential growth in medical and scientific information, meta-analysis represents an essential tool for aggregating information, as well as providing guidelines for healthcare professionals at the decision-making stage. Nevertheless, this approach remains complex and involves more than simply calculating a combined effect. Neglecting these concerns may lead to meaningless—even absurd—results, from which potentially incorrect conclusions or recommendations can be drawn. The objective of this methodological paper is to summarize the objectives and applications of this method in order to facilitate the understanding and interpretation of the results of a meta-analysis.