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Med Decis Making. 1993 Jul-Sep;13(3):253-7.

A meta-analytic method for summarizing diagnostic test performances: receiver-operating-characteristic-summary point estimates.

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Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, OH 44106.


The authors have devised a meta-analytic method to summarize diagnostic test performances, which they describe along with a clinical example wherein they analyze the performances of real-time ultrasonography in eight studies of the detection of proximal deep venous thrombosis of the lower extremity, selected on the basis of specific inclusion criteria. To evaluate the evidence for fitting a summary receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve, a test of correlation between the estimates of true-positive rate (TPR) and false-positive rate (FPR) is performed. A high positive correlation argues for summarizing the studies with an ROC curve. In the absence of such correlation, a test of homogeneity is applied separately to the estimates of sensitivity (TPR) and specificity (TNR) to evaluate whether differences among studies are due to chance alone. If the estimates are homogeneous, a summary point estimate and confidence intervals (CIs) are calculated. As a final step, subgroup analyses can be performed to assess alternative explanations of variability in TPR and FPR. Within groups defined by the presence or absence of symptoms of venous thrombosis, a negative correlation between TPR and FPR and homogeneity among studies were found. For symptomatic patients, the summary TPR was 0.97 with a 95% CI of (0.94, 0.99) and the summary TNR was 0.97 (0.95, 0.99). For asymptomatic patients, the summary TPR was 0.66 (0.50, 0.81), and the summary TNR was 0.96 (0.90, 0.99). The difference in TPR between symptomatic and asymptomatic patients was statistically significant. There was no evidence that test referral bias or lack of independent interpretation of test results influenced these findings.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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