We should not pool diagnostic likelihood ratios in systematic reviews

Stat Med. 2008 Feb 28;27(5):687-97. doi: 10.1002/sim.2992.


Some authors plead for the explicit use of diagnostic likelihood ratios to describe the accuracy of diagnostic tests. Likelihood ratios are also preferentially used by some journals, and, naturally, are also used in meta-analysis. Although likelihood ratios vary between zero and infinity, meta-analysis is complicated by the fact that not every combination in Re(+) is appropriate. The usual bivariate meta-analysis with a bivariate normal distribution can sometimes lead to positive probability mass at values that are not possible. We considered, therefore, three different statistical models that do not suffer from this drawback. All three approaches are so complicated that we advise to consider meta-analysis of sensitivity and specificity values instead of likelihood ratios.

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Likelihood Functions*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Review Literature as Topic*