Meta-analysis of effect sizes reported at multiple time points: A multivariate approach August 7, 2012

Background Many comparative studies report results at multiple time points. Such data are correlated because they pertain to the same patients, but are typically meta-analyzed as separate quantitative syntheses at each time point, ignoring the correlations between time points.

Purpose To develop a meta-analytic approach that estimates treatment effects at successive time points and takes account of the stochastic dependencies of those effects.

Methods We present both fixed and random effects methods for multivariate meta-analysis of effect sizes reported at multiple time points. We provide formulas for calculating the covariance (and correlations) of the effect sizes at successive time points for four common metrics (log odds ratio, log risk ratio, risk difference, and arcsine difference) based on data reported in the primary studies. We work through an example of a meta-analysis of 17 randomized trials of radiotherapy and chemotherapy versus radiotherapy alone for the postoperative treatment of patients with malignant gliomas, where in each trial survival is assessed at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months post randomization. We also provide software code for the main analyses described in the article. Read More