Specificity and sensitivity: a significant difference.
Liss GM; Singal M
Postgrad Med 1983 Jun; 73(6):34
Dr. Steven R. Gambert and colleagues in the September 1982 Issue (page 1471 discussed the important topic of the interpretation of laboratory tests in the elderly. In their article, however, we noted a misuse of a statistical term which should be clarified. In their discussion of liver function tests, the authors mention that "(results) maybe normal despite the presence of significant liver pathology; therefore, more specific tests of liver function should be done" (pages 150-151). The authors referred to "specific" when "sensitive" was probably intended. Sensitivity is the ability of a test to detect those who have disease (ie. It is the proportion of those with disease who have a positive test result). The false-negative rate is the proportion of those with the disease who have a negative test result. This rate is related to sensitivity in the following way. Sensitivity = 1 - FN. Thus, to detect those individuals with pathology or disease who have normal screening tests, more sensitive, not more specific, tests are needed. Specificity is a test's ability to identify correctly those who do not have the disease (ie. it is the proportion of those without disease who have a negative test result). In those whose test results are positive. However, one would also like to use specific tests (those with few false-positive results to help in confirming the diagnosis.
We take your privacy seriously. You can review and change the way we collect information below.
These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.
Cookies used to make website functionality more relevant to you. These cookies perform functions like remembering presentation options or choices and, in some cases, delivery of web content that based on self-identified area of interests.
Cookies used to track the effectiveness of CDC public health campaigns through clickthrough data.
Cookies used to enable you to share pages and content that you find interesting on CDC.gov through third party social networking and other websites. These cookies may also be used for advertising purposes by these third parties.