Table 1–2lists the general characteristics of useful diagnostic tests. Most of the principles detailed in this section can be applied not only to laboratory and radiologic tests but also to elements of the history and physical examination. An understanding of these characteristics is very helpful to the clinician when ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests.

Properties of useful diagnostic tests.
  1. Test methodology has been described in detail so that it can be accurately and reliably reproduced.
  2. Test accuracy and precision have been determined.
  3. The reference interval has been established appropriately.
  4. Sensitivity and specificity have been reliably established by comparison with a gold standard. The evaluation has used a range of patients, including those who have different but commonly confused disorders and those with a spectrum of mild and severe, treated and untreated disease. The patient selection process has been adequately described so that results will not be generalized inappropriately.
  5. Independent contribution to overall performance of a test panel has been confirmed if a test is advocated as part of a panel of tests.

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