Bayesian generalized linear models for meta-analysis of diagnostic tests

Yan Xing, The University of Texas School of Public Health


With the recognition of the importance of evidence-based medicine, there is an emerging need for methods to systematically synthesize available data. Specifically, methods to provide accurate estimates of test characteristics for diagnostic tests are needed to help physicians make better clinical decisions. To provide more flexible approaches for meta-analysis of diagnostic tests, we developed three Bayesian generalized linear models. Two of these models, a bivariate normal and a binomial model, analyzed pairs of sensitivity and specificity values while incorporating the correlation between these two outcome variables. Noninformative independent uniform priors were used for the variance of sensitivity, specificity and correlation. We also applied an inverse Wishart prior to check the sensitivity of the results. The third model was a multinomial model where the test results were modeled as multinomial random variables. All three models can include specific imaging techniques as covariates in order to compare performance. Vague normal priors were assigned to the coefficients of the covariates. The computations were carried out using the 'Bayesian inference using Gibbs sampling' implementation of Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques. We investigated the properties of the three proposed models through extensive simulation studies. We also applied these models to a previously published meta-analysis dataset on cervical cancer as well as to an unpublished melanoma dataset. In general, our findings show that the point estimates of sensitivity and specificity were consistent among Bayesian and frequentist bivariate normal and binomial models. However, in the simulation studies, the estimates of the correlation coefficient from Bayesian bivariate models are not as good as those obtained from frequentist estimation regardless of which prior distribution was used for the covariance matrix. The Bayesian multinomial model consistently underestimated the sensitivity and specificity regardless of the sample size and correlation coefficient. In conclusion, the Bayesian bivariate binomial model provides the most flexible framework for future applications because of its following strengths: (1) it facilitates direct comparison between different tests; (2) it captures the variability in both sensitivity and specificity simultaneously as well as the intercorrelation between the two; and (3) it can be directly applied to sparse data without ad hoc correction.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Xing, Yan, "Bayesian generalized linear models for meta-analysis of diagnostic tests" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3297433.