I was recently confronted with the task of running a meta-analysis of a subject in which the various studies had reported (adjusted) measures of treatment efficacy on various continuous outcomes. This is one of the areas in which the data for meta-analysis comes not in the usual form of #events and #patients(N) , but as treatment effects and their associated standard errors. Not too uncommon examples include the effects of a given intervention on Blood Pressure, Cholesterol levels, Psychometric scales, Cox regression Hazard Ratios or Logistic Regression Odds Ratios etc. And then it hit me: for almost all of the studies I wanted to pool, I did have access at all to the actual data that I had to process!! For sure, there were treatment effects (actually hazard ratios,HRs, for my project) in the papers but the standard errors were not reported; furthermore, the information that was actually contained in the manuscripts (HRs, 95%CI and the p-value) was not the “real thing” but its approximation, rounded down to one (and sometimes two) significant digits.
I’m sure that others have run into this issue previously, but I have never seen a formal, discussion for handling this missing data problem. (more…)