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Likelihood ratios

What is a likelihood ratio?

The likelihood ratio provides a direct estimate of how much a test result will change the odds of having a disease, and incorporates both the sensitivity and specificity of the test.

 

The likelihood ratio for a positive result (LR+) tells you how much the odds of the disease increase when a test is positive.

The likelihood ratio of a positive test result (LR+) is sensitivity divided by (1- specificity)

          (LR+) True positives   Sensitivity  
  False positives   (1-Specificity)

 

The likelihood ratio for a negative result (LR-) tells you how much the odds of the disease decrease when a test is negative.

 
The likelihood ratio of a negative test result (LR-) is (1- sensitivity) divided by specificity.

          (LR-) False negatives  = (1- Sensitivity)  
  True negatives (Specificity)

 

Interpretation of Likelihood Ratios

The further away a likelihood ratio (LR) is from 1, the stronger the evidence for the presence or absence of disease.

  • LR >1 indicates that the test result is associated with the presence of the disease.
  • LR <0.1 indicates that the test result is associated with the absence of disease.

 

© Dr Murad Ruf and Dr Oliver Morgan 2008, Dr Kelly Mackenzie 2017