Role of systematic reviews and meta-analysis in evidence-based clinical practice.
INTRODUCTION: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of well-designed and executed randomized controlled trials have the potential to provide the highest levels of evidence to support diagnostic and therapeutic interventions in urology. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The role of systematic reviews in the urological literature is described. A three-step appraisal of the validity, magnitude and applicability of results will permit an evidence-based approach to incorporating findings of systematic reviews and meta-analyses into practice. RESULTS: The validity of systematic reviews depends on a focused clinical question that generates specific inclusion and exclusion criteria for identifying studies through an exhaustive literature search. The primary studies must be of high methodological quality and assessments should be reproducible. Informed consumers of the urological literature should be aware of the consistency of results between trials in a review, as well as the magnitude and precision of the best estimate of the treatment effects. When making decisions about implementing the results, urologists should consider all patient-important outcomes, the overall quality of the evidence and the balance between benefits, potential harms and costs. CONCLUSION: This framework will lead to a more evidence-based application of systematic reviews within the urological literature. Ideally, utilization of an evidence-based approach to systematic reviews will improve the quality of urological patient care.
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