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What is Sensitivity and Specificity?













Key Terms – Sensitivity and Specificity are used to evaluate the analytical

performance of a clinical test.


Sensitivity is defined as the ability to correctly identify those patients with a disease (true-positive).For example, a test with 85 % sensitivity accurately detects this share of patients

with cancer (true-positives). Thus, 15 % of affected patients will stay undetected

(false-negatives). The higher the sensitivity the more powerful is the test to correctly identify

patients with cancer.


Specificity is defined as the ability to correctly identify healthy patients. For example,

a test with 92 % specificity correctly identifies this share of patients without cancer (true-negatives), with an error rate of 8 %. The higher the specificity the more powerful is the test to correctly identify patients without cancer.


12) Lalkhen, AG., McCluskey, A. (2008) Clinical tests: sensitivity and specificity, Continuing Education in Anaesthesia Critical Care & Pain. 8(6) December 2008:221-223. http://doi.org/10.1093/bjace-accp/mkn041

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