• systematic review;
  • meta-analysis;
  • psychopharmacology;
  • evaluation

Objective : Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are increasingly frequently used in the evaluation of medical treatments. This review explains the principles of the methodology, significance and limitations of systematic reviews.

Method:  Short review article.

Results:  In contrast to conventional reviews, systematic reviews use a structured approach in retrieving, analyzing and interpreting the evidence. A comprehensive search strategy is applied to identify all relevant trials. Study selection and data extraction is performed independently by at least two reviewers. The data are usually synthesized in a meta-analysis applying statistical methods to examine homogeneity. Funnel plots and other statistical methods are applied to detect publication bias.

Conclusion:  Due to the enormous amount of scientific information published every year, systematic reviews and meta-analyses have become indispensable methods for the evaluation of medical treatments.