Nonparametric Sample Size Estimation for Sensitivity and Specificity with Multiple Observations per Subject

Fan hu, William R. Schucany, Chul Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We propose a sample size calculation approach for the estimation of sensitivity and specificity of diagnostic tests with multiple observations per subject. Many diagnostic tests such as diagnostic imaging or periodontal tests are characterized by the presence of multiple observations for each subject. The number of observations frequently varies among subjects in diagnostic imaging experiments or periodontal studies. Nonparametric statistical methods for the analysis of clustered binary data have been recently developed by various authors. In this article, we derive a sample size formula for sensitivity and specificity of diagnostic tests using the sign test while accounting for multiple observations per subject. Application of the sample size formula for the design of a diagnostic test is discussed. Since the sample size formula is based on large sample theory, simulation studies are conducted to evaluate the finite sample performance of the proposed method. We compare the performance of the proposed sample size formula with that of the parametric sample size formula that assigns equal weight to each observation. Simulation studies show that the proposed sample size formula generally yields empirical powers closer to the nominal level than the parametric method. Simulation studies also show that the number of subjects required increases as the variability in the number of observations per subject increases and the intracluster correlation increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-616
Number of pages8
JournalTherapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010


  • Diagnostic test
  • Empirical power
  • Intracluster correlation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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