Empiric assessment of parameters that affect the design of multireader receiver operating characteristic studies

Acad Radiol. 1999 Dec;6(12):723-9. doi: 10.1016/s1076-6332(99)80468-1.


Rationale and objectives: The authors attempted to assess experimentally the magnitude of reader variability and the correlations and interactions among cases, readers, and modalities during observer performance studies and their possible effects on study design and sample size.

Materials and methods: Published data from 32 selected receiver operating characteristic (ROC) studies were reviewed to compare the magnitude of the variance component from readers with the variance component from modality. Estimates of correlation and interactions among cases, readers, and modalities were also computed directly from ROC data ascertained during two large studies performed in our laboratory. Each of these two studies included 529 cases and six readers, but one study used eight modalities and the other nine.

Results: Published results indicate that reader variability is task dependent and larger (P < .05) than modality variability in detection of interstitial disease. Measured correlations between modalities for the same reader were task dependent and ranged from 0.35 to 0.59. Modality-by-reader and modality-by-case interactions often are not important factors. The random error term was greater than the modality-by-reader interaction in 11 of 20 comparisons and greater than the modality-by-case interaction in eight of 20 comparisons.

Conclusion: Use of the same cases interpreted with different modes is justifiable in many situations because of the high variability from readers. This comprehensive review of existing ROC studies resulted in parameter assessments that can be used to better estimate sample-size requirements in multireader ROC studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Observer Variation*
  • ROC Curve*
  • Radiography, Thoracic*
  • Research Design