Diagnostic Testing and Decision-Making: Beauty Is Not Just in the Eye of the Beholder

Thomas R Vetter, Patrick Schober, Edward J Mascha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To use a diagnostic test effectively and consistently in their practice, clinicians need to know how well the test distinguishes between those patients who have the suspected acute or chronic disease and those patients who do not. Clinicians are equally interested and usually more concerned whether, based on the results of a screening test, a given patient actually: (1) does or does not have the suspected disease; or (2) will or will not subsequently experience the adverse event or outcome. Medical tests that are performed to screen for a risk factor, diagnose a disease, or to estimate a patient's prognosis are frequently a key component of a clinical research study. Like therapeutic interventions, medical tests require proper analysis and demonstrated efficacy before being incorporated into routine clinical practice. This basic statistical tutorial, thus, discusses the fundamental concepts and techniques related to diagnostic testing and medical decision-making, including sensitivity and specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value, positive and negative likelihood ratio, receiver operating characteristic curve, diagnostic accuracy, choosing a best cut-point for a continuous variable biomarker, comparing methods on diagnostic accuracy, and design of a diagnostic accuracy study.This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1085-1091
Number of pages7
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number4
Early online date9 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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