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Uptake of systematic reviews and meta-analyses based on individual participant data in clinical practice guidelines: Descriptive study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Published copy (DOI)


  • Claire L. Vale
  • Larysa H M Rydzewska
  • Maroeska M. Rovers
  • Jonathan R. Emberson
  • François Gueyffier
  • Lesley A. Stewart


Publication details

JournalBritish Medical Journal
DatePublished - 6 Mar 2015
Number of pages9
Original languageEnglish


OBJECTIVE: To establish the extent to which systematic reviews and meta-analyses of individual participant data (IPD) are being used to inform the recommendations included in published clinical guidelines.

DESIGN: Descriptive study.

SETTING: Database maintained by the Cochrane IPD Meta-analysis Methods Group, supplemented by records of published IPD meta-analyses held in a separate database.

POPULATION: A test sample of systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials that included a meta-analysis of IPD, and a separate sample of clinical guidelines, matched to the IPD meta-analyses according to medical condition, interventions, populations, and dates of publication.

DATA EXTRACTION: Descriptive information on each guideline was extracted along with evidence showing use or critical appraisal, or both, of the IPD meta-analysis within the guideline; recommendations based directly on its findings and the use of other systematic reviews in the guideline.

RESULTS: Based on 33 IPD meta-analyses and 177 eligible, matched clinical guidelines there was evidence that IPD meta-analyses were being under-utilised. Only 66 guidelines (37%) cited a matched IPD meta-analysis. Around a third of these (n=22, 34%) had critically appraised the IPD meta-analysis. Recommendations based directly on the matched IPD meta-analyses were identified for only 18 of the 66 guidelines (27%). For the guidelines that did not cite a matched IPD meta-analysis (n=111, 63%), search dates had preceded the publication of the IPD meta-analysis in 23 cases (21%); however, for the remainder, there was no obvious reasons why the IPD meta-analysis had not been cited.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that systematic reviews and meta-analyses based on IPD are being under-utilised. Guideline developers should routinely seek good quality and up to date IPD meta-analyses to inform guidelines. Increased use of IPD meta-analyses could lead to improved guidelines ensuring that routine patient care is based on the most reliable evidence available.

Bibliographical note

© Vale et al 2015.

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