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      The urine dipstick test useful to rule out infections. A meta-analysis of the accuracy

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          Many studies have evaluated the accuracy of dipstick tests as rapid detectors of bacteriuria and urinary tract infections (UTI). The lack of an adequate explanation for the heterogeneity of the dipstick accuracy stimulates an ongoing debate. The objective of the present meta-analysis was to summarise the available evidence on the diagnostic accuracy of the urine dipstick test, taking into account various pre-defined potential sources of heterogeneity.


          Literature from 1990 through 1999 was searched in Medline and Embase, and by reference tracking. Selected publications should be concerned with the diagnosis of bacteriuria or urinary tract infections, investigate the use of dipstick tests for nitrites and/or leukocyte esterase, and present empirical data. A checklist was used to assess methodological quality.


          70 publications were included. Accuracy of nitrites was high in pregnant women (Diagnostic Odds Ratio = 165) and elderly people (DOR = 108). Positive predictive values were ≥80% in elderly and in family medicine. Accuracy of leukocyte-esterase was high in studies in urology patients (DOR = 276). Sensitivities were highest in family medicine (86%). Negative predictive values were high in both tests in all patient groups and settings, except for in family medicine. The combination of both test results showed an important increase in sensitivity. Accuracy was high in studies in urology patients (DOR = 52), in children (DOR = 46), and if clinical information was present (DOR = 28). Sensitivity was highest in studies carried out in family medicine (90%). Predictive values of combinations of positive test results were low in all other situations.


          Overall, this review demonstrates that the urine dipstick test alone seems to be useful in all populations to exclude the presence of infection if the results of both nitrites and leukocyte-esterase are negative. Sensitivities of the combination of both tests vary between 68 and 88% in different patient groups, but positive test results have to be confirmed. Although the combination of positive test results is very sensitive in family practice, the usefulness of the dipstick test alone to rule in infection remains doubtful, even with high pre-test probabilities.

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          Empirical evidence of design-related bias in studies of diagnostic tests.

          The literature contains a large number of potential biases in the evaluation of diagnostic tests. Strict application of appropriate methodological criteria would invalidate the clinical application of most study results. To empirically determine the quantitative effect of study design shortcomings on estimates of diagnostic accuracy. Observational study of the methodological features of 184 original studies evaluating 218 diagnostic tests. Meta-analyses on diagnostic tests were identified through a systematic search of the literature using MEDLINE, EMBASE, and DARE databases and the Cochrane Library (1996-1997). Associations between study characteristics and estimates of diagnostic accuracy were evaluated with a regression model. Relative diagnostic odds ratio (RDOR), which compared the diagnostic odds ratios of studies of a given test that lacked a particular methodological feature with those without the corresponding shortcomings in design. Fifteen (6.8%) of 218 evaluations met all 8 criteria; 64 (30%) met 6 or more. Studies evaluating tests in a diseased population and a separate control group overestimated the diagnostic performance compared with studies that used a clinical population (RDOR, 3.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0-4.5). Studies in which different reference tests were used for positive and negative results of the test under study overestimated the diagnostic performance compared with studies using a single reference test for all patients (RDOR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.5-3.3). Diagnostic performance was also overestimated when the reference test was interpreted with knowledge of the test result (RDOR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.0-1.9), when no criteria for the test were described (RDOR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.5), and when no description of the population under study was provided (RDOR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1-1.7). These data provide empirical evidence that diagnostic studies with methodological shortcomings may overestimate the accuracy of a diagnostic test, particularly those including nonrepresentative patients or applying different reference standards.
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            Combining independent studies of a diagnostic test into a summary ROC curve: data-analytic approaches and some additional considerations.

            We consider how to combine several independent studies of the same diagnostic test, where each study reports an estimated false positive rate (FPR) and an estimated true positive rate (TPR). We propose constructing a summary receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve by the following steps. (i) Convert each FPR to its logistic transform U and each TPR to its logistic transform V after increasing each observed frequency by adding 1/2. (ii) For each study calculate D = V - U, which is the log odds ratio of TPR and FPR, and S = V + U, an implied function of test threshold; then plot each study's point (Si, Di). (iii) Fit a robust-resistant regression line to these points (or an equally weighted least-squares regression line), with V - U as the dependent variable. (iv) Back-transform the line to ROC space. To avoid model-dependent extrapolation from irrelevant regions of ROC space we propose defining a priori a value of FPR so large that the test simply would not be used at that FPR, and a value of TPR so low that the test would not be used at that TPR. Then (a) only data points lying in the thus defined north-west rectangle of the unit square are used in the data analysis, and (b) the estimated summary ROC is depicted only within that subregion of the unit square. We illustrate the methods using simulated and real data sets, and we point to ways of comparing different tests and of taking into account the effects of covariates.
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              A note on graphical presentation of estimated odds ratios from several clinical trials.

              To display a number of estimates of a parameter obtained from different studies it is common practice to plot a sequence of confidence intervals. This can be useful but is often unsatisfactory. An alternative display is suggested which represents intervals as points on a bivariate graph, and which has advantages. When the data are estimates of odds ratios from studies with a binary response, it is argued that for either type of plot, a log scale should be used rather than a linear scale.

                Author and article information

                BMC Urol
                BMC Urology
                BioMed Central (London )
                2 June 2004
                : 4
                : 4
                [1 ]Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), Utrecht, The Netherlands
                [3 ]Department of Family Medicine, Public Health Division, Academic Medical Centre/University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [4 ]Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [5 ]Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                Copyright © 2004 Devillé et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original URL.
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