What is an ROC curve?
The paper by Body et al is concerned with the evaluation of decision aids, which can be used to identify potential acute coronary syndromes (ACS) in the ED. The authors previously developed the Manchester Acute Coronary Syndromes model (MACS) decision aid, which uses several clinical variables and two biomarkers to ‘rule in’ and ‘rule out’ ACS. However, one of the two biomarkers (heart-type fatty acid bindingprotein, H-FABP) is not widely used so a revised decision aid has been developed (Troponin-only Manchester Acute Coronary Syndromes, T-MACS), which include a single biomarker hs-cTnT. In this issue, the authors show how they derive a revised decision aid and describe its performance in a number of independent diagnostic cohort studies. Decision aids (as well as other types of ‘diagnostic tests’) are often evaluated in terms of diagnostic testing parameters such as the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve, sensitivity and specificity. In this article, we explain how the ROC analysis is conducted and why it is an essential step towards developing a test with the desirable levels of sensitivity and specificity.