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Med Decis Making. 1985 Summer;5(2):157-77.

Probabilistic sensitivity analysis using Monte Carlo simulation. A practical approach.


The data for medical decision analyses are often unreliable. Traditional sensitivity analysis--varying one or more probability or utility estimates from baseline values to see if the optimal strategy changes--is cumbersome if more than two values are allowed to vary concurrently. This paper describes a practical method for probabilistic sensitivity analysis, in which uncertainties in all values are considered simultaneously. The uncertainty in each probability and utility is assumed to possess a probability distribution. For ease of application we have used a parametric model that permits each distribution to be specified by two values: the baseline estimate and a bound (upper or lower) of the 95 percent confidence interval. Following multiple simulations of the decision tree in which each probability and utility is randomly assigned a value within its distribution, the following results are recorded: (a) the mean and standard deviation of the expected utility of each strategy; (b) the frequency with which each strategy is optimal; (c) the frequency with which each strategy "buys" or "costs" a specified amount of utility relative to the remaining strategies. As illustrated by an application to a previously published decision analysis, this technique is easy to use and can be a valuable addition to the armamentarium of the decision analyst.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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