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Observational Studies Produce Inconsistent Results
Authors of a new study published in the January 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association show that results can differ enormously depending on the type of statistical analysis each study uses.
According to HealthDay News, “Randomized, controlled studies are considered the gold standard of medical science. In such trials, patients are randomly assigned to receive either the treatment or a placebo. The participants are then monitored for a certain period of time to determine the results.”
This type of study is done less frequently due to the drastic cost difference. Since randomized controlled studies cost much more, many times researchers tend to go with the less costly approach. Most observational studies take place in a natural environment such as a hospital.
Therese A. Stukel, lead author of the new research told HealthDay, “We need to be more skeptical" of observational studies. You can't just can't throw a standard model at it and assume you're going to get a correct result. None of this stuff is written in stone."
The study analyzed 122,124 senior citizens on Medicare that had been hospitalized as a result of a heart attack between 1994 and 1995 and were eligible to receive cardiac catheterization; “a procedure in which a tube or catheter is inserted into a vessel in the arm or leg and then on into the heart or coronary arteries.”
It was found that those who received the procedure were younger and suffered less severe heart attacks than their older counterparts.
"The bottom line is there are plenty of situations where standard methods work, and typically they work when we're selecting patients to two treatment groups where the groups are the same and the risks are the same," Stukel told HealthDay. "The classic situation where they don't work is where you're looking at surgical vs. non-surgical treatments where you need to be healthier to survive surgery and you need to survive long enough to get the surgery so, if you die early, it may look like you weren't chosen for the trial."
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