Cumulative meta-analysis of clinical trials builds evidence for exemplary medical care

J Clin Epidemiol. 1995 Jan;48(1):45-57; discussion 59-60. doi: 10.1016/0895-4356(94)00106-z.


Cumulative meta-analysis of clinical trials (a Bayesian interpretation for accumulating evidence) will profoundly affect medical care by summarizing evidence in the assessment of technology innovations. Application of the technique to the randomized control trials (RCTs) of streptokinase treatment of acute myocardial infarction, reduction of peri-operative mortality by antibiotic prophylaxis, and prevention of death from bleeding peptic ulcers has revealed efficacy years before it was suspected by any other means. Arrangement of the trials according to event rate in the controls, effect sizes, quality of the trials or according to covariables of interest has supplied unique information. If carried out prospectively the technique supplies invaluable information regarding indications for another trial, the number of patients necessary to determine the validity of past trends, and the type of patients who might be benefitted. Careful examination in a cumulative manner of the prior trials can reduce the need for future large trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Therapeutics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome