Nyaga, V.N., Arbyn, M. Metadta: a Stata command for meta-analysis and meta-regression of diagnostic test accuracy data – a tutorial. Arch Public Health 80, 95 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-021-00747-5
Although statistical procedures for pooling of several epidemiological metrics are generally available in statistical packages, those for meta-analysis of diagnostic test accuracy studies including options for multivariate regression are lacking. Fitting regression models and the processing of the estimates often entails lengthy and tedious calculations. Therefore, packaging appropriate statistical procedures in a robust and user-friendly program is of great interest to the scientific community.
metadta is a statistical program for pooling of diagnostic accuracy test data in Stata. It implements both the bivariate random-effects and the fixed-effects model, allows for meta-regression, and presents the results in tables, a forest plot and/or summary receiver operating characteristic (SROC) plot. For a model without covariates, it quantifies the unexplained heterogeneity due to between-study variation using an I2 statistic that accounts for the mean-variance relationship and the correlation between sensitivity and specificity. To demonstrate metadta, we applied the program on two published meta-analyses on: 1) the sensitivity and specificity of cytology and other markers including telomerase for primary diagnosis of bladder cancer, and 2) the accuracy of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing on self-collected versus clinician-collected samples to detect cervical precancer.
Without requiring a continuity correction, the pooled sensitivity and specificity generated by metadta of telomerase for the diagnosis of primary bladder cancer was 0.77 [95% CI, 0.70, 0.82] and 0.91 [95% CI, 0.75, 0.97] respectively. Metadta also allowed to assess the relative accuracy of HPV testing on self- versus clinician-taken specimens using data from comparative studies conducted in different clinical settings. The analysis showed that HPV testing with target-amplification assays on self-samples was as sensitive as on clinician-samples in detecting cervical pre-cancer irrespective of the clinical setting.
The metadta program implements state of art statistical procedures in an attempt to close the gap between methodological statisticians and systematic reviewers. We expect the program to popularize the use of appropriate statistical methods for diagnostic meta-analysis further.