Living systematic reviews: 3. Statistical methods for updating meta-analyses.

Simmonds, Mark; Salanti, Georgia; McKenzie, Joanne; Elliott, Julian; Review Network, Living Systematic (2017). Living systematic reviews: 3. Statistical methods for updating meta-analyses. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 91, pp. 38-46. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2017.08.008

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A living systematic review (LSR) should keep the review current as new research evidence emerges. Any meta-analyses included in the review will also need updating as new material is identified. If the aim of the review is solely to present the best current evidence standard meta-analysis may be sufficient, provided reviewers are aware that results may change at later updates. If the review is used in a decision-making context, more caution may be needed. When using standard meta-analysis methods, the chance of incorrectly concluding that any updated meta-analysis is statistically significant when there is no effect (the type I error) increases rapidly as more updates are performed. Inaccurate estimation of any heterogeneity across studies may also lead to inappropriate conclusions. This paper considers four methods to avoid some of these statistical problems when updating meta-analyses: two methods, that is, law of the iterated logarithm and the Shuster method control primarily for inflation of type I error and two other methods, that is, trial sequential analysis and sequential meta-analysis control for type I and II errors (failing to detect a genuine effect) and take account of heterogeneity. This paper compares the methods and considers how they could be applied to LSRs.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Salanti, Georgia


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services








Tanya Karrer

Date Deposited:

26 Oct 2017 09:47

Last Modified:

27 Oct 2019 10:03

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Heterogeneity; Living systematic review; Meta-analysis; Type I error; Type II error




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