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Special Article
November 1, 2006

Meta-analysis in Surgery: Methods and Limitations

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (Drs Ng, McGory, Ko, and Maggard); Department of Surgery, Greater West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Los Angeles (Dr Ko).

Arch Surg. 2006;141(11):1125-1130. doi:10.1001/archsurg.141.11.1125

The growth of new knowledge continues to advance the surgical disciplines, and several types of literature reviews attempt to consolidate this expansion of information. Meta-analysis is one such method that integrates findings on the same subject from different studies. Within surgery, there is a wealth of literature on a given topic, which needs to be considered collectively. As such, meta-analyses have been performed to address issues like the use of bowel preparation for colorectal surgery and comparisons of outcomes for laparoscopic vs open surgical approaches. A basic understanding of the groundwork required for meta-analysis is fundamental toward interpreting and critiquing its results. This review provides an overview of the principles, application, and limitations of meta-analysis in the context of surgery.