Four diagnostic cohort studies that recruited consecutive series of patients (457 thyroid follicular neoplasms) were included in the review. The overall prevalence of carcinomas was 14.7%.
The interval between index test and reference standard, procedure used for the reference standard and blinding of interpreters of index test and reference standard were not reported by any of the included studies. The remaining three quality criteria (representative spectrum of patients, avoidance of differential and partial verification bias) were met by all studies.
When predominant internal flow was used as the diagnostic criterion (four studies), the overall sensitivity was 85% (95% CI 74 to 93) and the overall specificity was 86% (95% CI 82 to 89). The positive likelihood ratio was 6.07 and the negative likelihood ratio was 0.18. At the prevalence reported in this study, the positive predictive value of colour Doppler ultrasonography for carcinoma would be 51% and the negative predictive value 97%.
When any internal flow was used as the diagnostic criterion (three studies), the overall sensitivity was 96% (95% CI 88 to 100) and the overall specificity was 14% (95% CI 11 to 18). For these data, the positive predictive value of colour Doppler ultrasonography would be 15% and the negative predictive value 96%.