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Stat Med. 2015 Apr 30;34(9):1560-76. doi: 10.1002/sim.6432. Epub 2015 Jan 29.

Efficient statistical tests to compare Youden index: accounting for contingency correlation.

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Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.


Youden index is widely utilized in studies evaluating accuracy of diagnostic tests and performance of predictive, prognostic, or risk models. However, both one and two independent sample tests on Youden index have been derived ignoring the dependence (association) between sensitivity and specificity, resulting in potentially misleading findings. Besides, paired sample test on Youden index is currently unavailable. This article develops efficient statistical inference procedures for one sample, independent, and paired sample tests on Youden index by accounting for contingency correlation, namely associations between sensitivity and specificity and paired samples typically represented in contingency tables. For one and two independent sample tests, the variances are estimated by Delta method, and the statistical inference is based on the central limit theory, which are then verified by bootstrap estimates. For paired samples test, we show that the estimated covariance of the two sensitivities and specificities can be represented as a function of kappa statistic so the test can be readily carried out. We then show the remarkable accuracy of the estimated variance using a constrained optimization approach. Simulation is performed to evaluate the statistical properties of the derived tests. The proposed approaches yield more stable type I errors at the nominal level and substantially higher power (efficiency) than does the original Youden's approach. Therefore, the simple explicit large sample solution performs very well. Because we can readily implement the asymptotic and exact bootstrap computation with common software like R, the method is broadly applicable to the evaluation of diagnostic tests and model performance.


Delta method; Youden index; kappa coefficient; paired design; sensitivity; specificity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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