Health Care Management Papers

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Journal Article

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Statistical Methods in Medical Research

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Objectives: Assessing high-sensitivity tests for mortal illness is crucial in emergency and critical care medicine. Estimating the 95% confidence interval (CI) of the likelihood ratio (LR) can be challenging when sample sensitivity is 100%. We aimed to develop, compare, and automate a bootstrapping method to estimate the negative LR CI when sample sensitivity is 100%.

Methods: The lowest population sensitivity that is most likely to yield sample sensitivity 100% is located using the binomial distribution. Random binomial samples generated using this population sensitivity are then used in the LR bootstrap. A free R program, “bootLR,” automates the process. Extensive simulations were performed to determine how often the LR bootstrap and comparator method 95% CIs cover the true population negative LR value. Finally, the 95% CI was compared for theoretical sample sizes and sensitivities approaching and including 100% using: (1) a technique of individual extremes, (2) SAS software based on the technique of Gart and Nam, (3) the Score CI (as implemented in the StatXact, SAS, and R PropCI package), and (4) the bootstrapping technique.

Results: The bootstrapping approach demonstrates appropriate coverage of the nominal 95% CI over a spectrum of populations and sample sizes. Considering a study of sample size 200 with 100 patients with disease, and specificity 60%, the lowest population sensitivity with median sample sensitivity 100% is 99.31%. When all 100 patients with disease test positive, the negative LR 95% CIs are: individual extremes technique (0,0.073), StatXact (0,0.064), SAS Score method (0,0.057), R PropCI (0,0.062), and bootstrap (0,0.048). Similar trends were observed for other sample sizes.

Conclusions: When study samples demonstrate 100% sensitivity, available methods may yield inappropriately wide negative LR CIs. An alternative bootstrapping approach and accompanying free open-source R package were developed to yield realistic estimates easily. This methodology and implementation are applicable to other binomial proportions with homogeneous responses.


Sensitivity and specificity, confidence intervals, Monte Carlo method, data interpretation, statistical, bootstrapping, biostatistics



Date Posted: 27 November 2017