StATS: Summary Receiver Operating Characteristic Curve (January 21, 2005)

In the past week, I have had two inquiries about how to perform a meta-analysis of studies of a diagnostic test. An intriguing idea that I discovered in researching this is the use of the Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve to summarize the results of the studies. Each study will have its own sensitivity and specificity, and plotting the sensitivity/specificity pairs on the coordinates of an ROC plot, along with some reference lines, will help you to evaluate the degree of heterogeneity of the studies, among other things. An example of this type of plot appears on the web at

and there are a couple of references that discuss this approach.

Some additional references on the problems of meta-analysis for diagnostic tests are:

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