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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

A systematic comparison of software dedicated to meta-analysis of causal studies

Leon Bax12*, Ly-Mee Yu3, Noriaki Ikeda2 and Karel GM Moons1

Author Affiliations

1 Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, UMC Utrecht, the Netherlands

2 Department of Medical Informatics, Kitasato University, Sagamihara, Japan

3 Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Oxford, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2007, 7:40  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-7-40

Published: 10 September 2007

Abstract

Background

Our objective was to systematically assess the differences in features, results, and usability of currently available meta-analysis programs.

Methods

Systematic review of software. We did an extensive search on the internet (Google, Yahoo, Altavista, and MSN) for specialized meta-analysis software. We included six programs in our review: Comprehensive Meta-analysis (CMA), MetAnalysis, MetaWin, MIX, RevMan, and WEasyMA. Two investigators compared the features of the software and their results. Thirty independent researchers evaluated the programs on their usability while analyzing one data set.

Results

The programs differed substantially in features, ease-of-use, and price. Although most results from the programs were identical, we did find some minor numerical inconsistencies. CMA and MIX scored highest on usability and these programs also have the most complete set of analytical features.

Conclusion

In consideration of differences in numerical results, we believe the user community would benefit from openly available and systematically updated information about the procedures and results of each program's validation. The most suitable program for a meta-analysis will depend on the user's needs and preferences and this report provides an overview that should be helpful in making a substantiated choice.