Application of Causal Inference Methods to Pooled Longitudinal Non-Randomized Studies: A Methodological Systematic Review


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Observational data provide invaluable real-world information in medicine, but certain methodological considerations are required to derive causal estimates. In this systematic review, we evaluated the methodology and reporting quality of individual-level patient data meta-analyses (IPD-MAs) published in 2009, 2014, and 2019 that sought to estimate a causal relationship in medicine. We screened over 16,000 titles and abstracts, reviewed 45 full-text articles out of the 167 deemed potentially eligible, and included 29 into the analysis. Unfortunately, we found that causal methodologies were rarely implemented, and reporting was generally poor across studies. Specifically, only three of the 29 articles used quasi-experimental methods, and no study used G-methods to adjust for time-varying confounding. To address these issues, we propose stronger collaborations between physicians and methodologists to ensure that causal methodologies are properly implemented in IPD-MAs. In addition, we put forward a suggested checklist of reporting guidelines for IPD-MAs that utilize causal methods. This checklist could improve reporting thereby potentially enhancing the quality and trustworthiness of IPD-MAs, which can be considered one of the most valuable sources of evidence for health policy.



Hufstedler H, Mauer N, Yeboah E, Carr S, Rahman S, Danzer AM, Debray TPA, Jong VMT, Campbell H, Gustafson P, Maxwell L, Jaenisch T, Matthay EC, Bärnighausen T. Application of Causal Inference Methods to Pooled Longitudinal Non- Randomized Studies: A Methodological Systematic Review. Res Sq [Preprint]. 2023 Aug doi: 10.21203/ PMID: 37693428; PMCID: PMC10491342.