Published in

BMJ Publishing Group, BMJ Open, 5(12), p. e055336, 2022

DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-055336



Export citation

Search in Google Scholar

Empirical comparisons of meta-analysis methods for diagnostic studies: a meta-epidemiological study

Journal article published in 2022 by Kristine J. Rosenberger, Haitao Chu ORCID, Lifeng Lin ORCID
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

Full text: Download

Green circle
Preprint: archiving allowed
Green circle
Postprint: archiving allowed
Green circle
Published version: archiving allowed
Data provided by SHERPA/RoMEO


ObjectivesSeveral methods are commonly used for meta-analyses of diagnostic studies, such as the bivariate linear mixed model (LMM). It estimates the overall sensitivity, specificity, their correlation, diagnostic OR (DOR) and the area under the curve (AUC) of the summary receiver operating characteristic (ROC) estimates. Nevertheless, the bivariate LMM makes potentially unrealistic assumptions (ie, normality of within-study estimates), which could be avoided by the bivariate generalised linear mixed model (GLMM). This article aims at investigating the real-world performance of the bivariate LMM and GLMM using meta-analyses of diagnostic studies from the Cochrane Library.MethodsWe compared the bivariate LMM and GLMM using the relative differences in the overall sensitivity and specificity, their 95% CI widths, between-study variances, and the correlation between the (logit) sensitivity and specificity. We also explored their relationships with the number of studies, number of subjects, overall sensitivity and overall specificity.ResultsAmong the extracted 1379 meta-analyses, point estimates of overall sensitivities and specificities by the bivariate LMM and GLMM were generally similar, but their CI widths could be noticeably different. The bivariate GLMM generally produced narrower CIs than the bivariate LMM when meta-analyses contained 2–5 studies. For meta-analyses with <100 subjects or the overall sensitivities or specificities close to 0% or 100%, the bivariate LMM could produce substantially different AUCs, DORs and DOR CI widths from the bivariate GLMM.ConclusionsThe variation of estimates calls into question the appropriateness of the normality assumption within individual studies required by the bivariate LMM. In cases of notable differences presented in these methods’ results, the bivariate GLMM may be preferred.