A consumer's guide to subgroup analyses

Ann Intern Med. 1992 Jan 1;116(1):78-84. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-116-1-78.


The extent to which a clinician should believe and act on the results of subgroup analyses of data from randomized trials or meta-analyses is controversial. Guidelines are provided in this paper for making these decisions. The strength of inference regarding a proposed difference in treatment effect among subgroups is dependent on the magnitude of the difference, the statistical significance of the difference, whether the hypothesis preceded or followed the analysis, whether the subgroup analysis was one of a small number of hypotheses tested, whether the difference was suggested by comparisons within or between studies, the consistency of the difference, and the existence of indirect evidence that supports the difference. Application of these guidelines will assist clinicians in making decisions regarding whether to base a treatment decision on overall results or on the results of a subgroup analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design*