TitleTesting hypotheses about medical test accuracy: considerations for design and inference
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBranscum, AJ, Cheng, D, J. Lee, J
JournalJournal of Applied Statistics
Pagination1106 - 1119
Date Published05/2015
KeywordsSensitivity and Specificity

Developing new medical tests and identifying single biomarkers or panels of biomarkers with superior accuracy over existing classifiers promotes lifelong health of individuals and populations. Before a medical test can be routinely used in clinical practice, its accuracy within diseased and non-diseased populations must be rigorously evaluated. We introduce a method for sample size determination for studies designed to test hypotheses about medical test or biomarker sensitivity and specificity. We show how a sample size can be determined to guard against making type I and/or type II errors by calculating Bayes factors from multiple data sets simulated under null and/or alternative models. The approach can be implemented across a variety of study designs, including investigations into one test or two conditionally independent or dependent tests. We focus on a general setting that involves non-identifiable models for data when true disease status is unavailable due to the nonexistence of or undesirable side effects from a perfectly accurate (i.e. ‘gold standard’) test; special cases of the general method apply to identifiable models with or without gold-standard data. Calculation of Bayes factors is performed by incorporating prior information for model parameters (e.g. sensitivity, specificity, and disease prevalence) and augmenting the observed test-outcome data with unobserved latent data on disease status to facilitate Gibbs sampling from posterior distributions. We illustrate our methods using a thorough simulation study and an application to toxoplasmosis.