Bayesian splines versus fractional polynomials in network meta-analysis

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Background: Network meta-analysis (NMA) provides a powerful tool for the simultaneous evaluation of multiple treatments by combining evidence from different studies, allowing for direct and indirect comparisons between treatments. In recent years, NMA is becoming increasingly popular in the medical literature and underlying statistical methodologies are evolving both in the frequentist and Bayesian framework. Traditional NMA models are often based on the comparison of two treatment arms per study. These individual studies may measure outcomes at multiple time points that are not necessarily homogeneous across studies. Methods: In this article we present a Bayesian model based on B-splines for the simultaneous analysis of outcomes across time points, that allows for indirect comparison of treatments across different longitudinal studies. Results: We illustrate the proposed approach in simulations as well as on real data examples available in the literature and compare it with a model based on P-splines and one based on fractional polynomials, showing that our approach is flexible and overcomes the limitations of the latter. Conclusions: The proposed approach is computationally efficient and able to accommodate a large class of temporal treatment effect patterns, allowing for direct and indirect comparisons of widely varying shapes of longitudinal profiles.




Heinecke, A., Tallarita, M., & De Iorio, M. (2020). Bayesian splines versus fractional polynomials in network meta-analysis. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 20(1).

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