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Title: Development of an interactive web-based tool to conduct and interrogate meta-analysis of diagnostic test accuracy studies: MetaDTA
Authors: Freeman, Suzanne C.
Kerby, Clareece R.
Patel, Amit
Cooper, Nicola J.
Quinn, Terry
Sutton, Alex J.
First Published: 18-Apr-2019
Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group
Citation: BMC Medical Research Methodology, 2019, 19:81
Abstract: Background Recommended statistical methods for meta-analysis of diagnostic test accuracy studies require relatively complex bivariate statistical models which can be a barrier for non-statisticians. A further barrier exists in the software options available for fitting such models. Software accessible to non-statisticians, such as RevMan, does not support the fitting of bivariate models thus users must seek statistical support to use R, Stata or SAS. Recent advances in web technologies make analysis tool creation much simpler than previously. As well as accessibility, online tools can allow tailored interactivity not found in other packages allowing multiple perspectives of data to be displayed and information to be tailored to the user’s preference from a simple interface. We set out to: (i) Develop a freely available web-based “point and click” interactive tool which allows users to input their DTA study data and conduct meta-analyses for DTA reviews, including sensitivity analyses. (ii) Illustrate the features and benefits of the interactive application using an existing DTA meta-analysis for detecting dementia. Methods To create our online freely available interactive application we used the existing R packages lme4 and Shiny to analyse the data and create an interactive user interface respectively. Results MetaDTA, an interactive online application was created for conducting meta-analysis of DTA studies. The user interface was designed to be easy to navigate having different tabs for different functions. Features include the ability for users to enter their own data, customise plots, incorporate quality assessment results and quickly conduct sensitivity analyses. All plots produced can be exported as either .png or .pdf files to be included in report documents. All tables can be exported as .csv files. Conclusions MetaDTA, is a freely available interactive online application which meta-analyses DTA studies, plots the summary ROC curve, incorporates quality assessment results and allows for sensitivity analyses to be conducted in a timely manner. Due to the rich feature-set and user-friendliness of the software it should appeal to a wide audience including those without specialist statistical knowledge. We encourage others to create similar applications for specialist analysis methods to encourage broader uptake which in-turn could improve research quality.
DOI Link: 10.1186/s12874-019-0724-x
ISSN: 1471-2288
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2019. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Description: The datasets on unhealthy alcohol use and dementia are available to download from MetaDTA. The R code for MetaDTA is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. The application can be accessed from
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Health Sciences

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