Indirect comparison in evaluating relative efficacy illustrated by antimicrobial prophylaxis in colorectal surgery

Fujian Song, Anne-Marie Glenny, Douglas G. Altman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to explore the potential usefulness and limitations of indirect comparisons in evaluating the relative efficacy of interventions. From a systematic review of antimicrobial prophylaxis in colorectal surgery, we identified 11 sets of randomized trials that can be used to compare antibiotics both directly and indirectly. The discrepancy between the direct and the indirect comparison is defined as the absolute value of difference in log odds ratio. The adjusted indirect comparison has the advantages that the prognostic factors of participants in different trials can be partially taken into account and more uncertainty be incorporated into its result by providing a wider confidence interval. However, considerable discrepancies exist between the direct and the adjusted indirect comparisons. When there is no direct comparison, the adjusted indirect method may be used to obtain some evidence about the relative efficacy of competing interventions, although such indirect results should be interpreted with great caution. Further empirical and methodologic research is needed to explore the validity and generalizability of the adjusted indirect comparison for evaluating different interventions. Control Clin Trials 2000;21:488–497
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-497
Number of pages10
JournalControlled Clinical Trials
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2000


  • Randomized trials
  • indirect comparison
  • efficacy
  • validity
  • generalizability

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