Network meta-analysis: users’ guide for pediatricians
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BACKGROUND: Network meta-analysis (NMA) is a powerful analytic tool that allows simultaneous comparison between several management/treatment alternatives even when direct comparisons of the alternatives (such as the case in which treatments are compared against placebo and have not been compared against each other) are unavailable. Though there are still a limited number of pediatric NMAs published, the rapid increase in NMAs in other areas suggests pediatricians will soon be frequently facing this new form of evidence summary. DISCUSSION: Evaluating the NMA evidence requires serial judgments on the creditability of the process of NMA conduct, and evidence quality assessment. First clinicians need to evaluate the basic standards applicable to any meta-analysis (e.g. comprehensive search, duplicate assessment of eligibility, risk of bias, and data abstraction). Then evaluate specific issues related to NMA including precision, transitivity, coherence, and rankings. CONCLUSIONS: In this article we discuss how clinicians can evaluate the credibility of NMA methods, and how they can make judgments regarding the quality (certainty) of the evidence. We illustrate the concepts using recent pediatric NMA publications.