Using samples to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of a surveillance process

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2008 Jun;29(6):559-63. doi: 10.1086/588203.


Determining sensitivity and specificity of a postoperative infection surveillance process is a difficult undertaking. Because postoperative infections are rare, vast numbers of negative results exist, and it is often not reasonable to assess them all. This study gives a methodological framework for estimating sensitivity and specificity by taking only a small sample of the number of patients who test negative and comparing their findings to the reference or "gold standard" rather than comparing the findings of all patients to the gold standard. It provides a formula for deriving confidence intervals for these estimates and a guide to minimum requirements for sampling results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Research Design
  • Sampling Studies
  • Selection Bias
  • Sensitivity and Specificity