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Transfusion. 2016 Jul;56(7):1680-3. doi: 10.1111/trf.13635. Epub 2016 May 17.

How do I interpret a confidence interval?

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Canadian Blood Services, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventive Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


A 95% confidence interval (CI) of the mean is a range with an upper and lower number calculated from a sample. Because the true population mean is unknown, this range describes possible values that the mean could be. If multiple samples were drawn from the same population and a 95% CI calculated for each sample, we would expect the population mean to be found within 95% of these CIs. CIs are sensitive to variability in the population (spread of values) and sample size. When used to compare the means of two or more treatment groups, a CI shows the magnitude of a difference between groups. This is helpful in understanding both the statistical significance and the clinical significance of a treatment. In this article we describe the basic principles of CIs and their interpretation.

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