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Stat Methods Med Res. 2018 May;27(5):1559-1574. doi: 10.1177/0962280216665419. Epub 2016 Sep 1.

Confidence and coverage for Bland-Altman limits of agreement and their approximate confidence intervals.

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School of Optometry and Vision Science, and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Australia.


Bland and Altman described approximate methods in 1986 and 1999 for calculating confidence limits for their 95% limits of agreement, approximations which assume large subject numbers. In this paper, these approximations are compared with exact confidence intervals calculated using two-sided tolerance intervals for a normal distribution. The approximations are compared in terms of the tolerance factors themselves but also in terms of the exact confidence limits and the exact limits of agreement coverage corresponding to the approximate confidence interval methods. Using similar methods the 50th percentile of the tolerance interval are compared with the k values of 1.96 and 2, which Bland and Altman used to define limits of agreements (i.e. [Formula: see text]+/- 1.96Sd and [Formula: see text]+/- 2Sd). For limits of agreement outer confidence intervals, Bland and Altman's approximations are too permissive for sample sizes <40 (1999 approximation) and <76 (1986 approximation). For inner confidence limits the approximations are poorer, being permissive for sample sizes of <490 (1986 approximation) and all practical sample sizes (1999 approximation). Exact confidence intervals for 95% limits of agreements, based on two-sided tolerance factors, can be calculated easily based on tables and should be used in preference to the approximate methods, especially for small sample sizes.


Bland–Altman analysis; confidence limits; coverage; limits of agreement; two-sided tolerance factors

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