A unification of models for meta-analysis of diagnostic accuracy studies

Biostatistics. 2007 Apr;8(2):239-51. doi: 10.1093/biostatistics/kxl004. Epub 2006 May 11.


Studies of diagnostic accuracy require more sophisticated methods for their meta-analysis than studies of therapeutic interventions. A number of different, and apparently divergent, methods for meta-analysis of diagnostic studies have been proposed, including two alternative approaches that are statistically rigorous and allow for between-study variability: the hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristic (ROC) model (Rutter and Gatsonis, 2001) and bivariate random-effects meta-analysis (van Houwelingen and others, 1993), (van Houwelingen and others, 2002), (Reitsma and others, 2005). We show that these two models are very closely related, and define the circumstances in which they are identical. We discuss the different forms of summary model output suggested by the two approaches, including summary ROC curves, summary points, confidence regions, and prediction regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Lymphography / standards
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • ROC Curve
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology