OBJECTIVE: To establish the extent to which systematic reviews and meta-analyses of individual participant data (IPD) are being used to inform the recommendations included in published clinical guidelines. DESIGN: Descriptive study. SETTING: Database maintained by the Cochrane IPD Meta-analysis Methods Group, supplemented by records of published IPD meta-analyses held in a separate database. POPULATION: A test sample of systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials that included a meta-analysis of IPD, and a separate sample of clinical guidelines, matched to the IPD meta-analyses according to medical condition, interventions, populations, and dates of publication. DATA EXTRACTION: Descriptive information on each guideline was extracted along with evidence showing use or critical appraisal, or both, of the IPD meta-analysis within the guideline; recommendations based directly on its findings and the use of other systematic reviews in the guideline. RESULTS: Based on 33 IPD meta-analyses and 177 eligible, matched clinical guidelines there was evidence that IPD meta-analyses were being under-utilised. Only 66 guidelines (37%) cited a matched IPD meta-analysis. Around a third of these (n=22, 34%) had critically appraised the IPD meta-analysis. Recommendations based directly on the matched IPD meta-analyses were identified for only 18 of the 66 guidelines (27%). For the guidelines that did not cite a matched IPD meta-analysis (n=111, 63%), search dates had preceded the publication of the IPD meta-analysis in 23 cases (21%); however, for the remainder, there was no obvious reasons why the IPD meta-analysis had not been cited. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that systematic reviews and meta-analyses based on IPD are being under-utilised. Guideline developers should routinely seek good quality and up to date IPD meta-analyses to inform guidelines. Increased use of IPD meta-analyses could lead to improved guidelines ensuring that routine patient care is based on the most reliable evidence available.


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Humans, Meta-Analysis as Topic, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Publishing, Research Subjects, Review Literature as Topic