Random-effects model for meta-analysis of clinical trials: an update

Contemp Clin Trials. 2007 Feb;28(2):105-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2006.04.004. Epub 2006 May 12.


The random-effects model is often used for meta-analysis of clinical studies. The method explicitly accounts for the heterogeneity of studies through a statistical parameter representing the inter-study variation. We discuss several iterative and non-iterative alternative methods for estimating the inter-study variance and hence the overall population treatment effect. We show that the leading methods for estimating the inter-study variance are special cases of a general method-of-moments estimate of the inter-study variance. The general method suggests two new two-step methods. The iterative estimate is statistically optimal and it can be easily calculated on a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, available on the desktop of most researchers. The two-step methods approximate the optimal iterative method better than the earlier one-step non-iterative methods.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Research Design