On determining the most appropriate test cut-off value: the case of tests with continuous results

Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2016 Oct 15;26(3):297-307. doi: 10.11613/BM.2016.034.


There are several criteria for determination of the most appropriate cut-off value in a diagnostic test with continuous results. Mostly based on receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis, there are various methods to determine the test cut-off value. The most common criteria are the point on ROC curve where the sensitivity and specificity of the test are equal; the point on the curve with minimum distance from the left-upper corner of the unit square; and the point where the Youden's index is maximum. There are also methods mainly based on Bayesian decision analysis. Herein, we show that a proposed method that maximizes the weighted number needed to misdiagnose, an index of diagnostic test effectiveness we previously proposed, is the most appropriate technique compared to the aforementioned ones. For determination of the cut-off value, we need to know the pretest probability of the disease of interest as well as the costs incurred by misdiagnosis. This means that even for a certain diagnostic test, the cut-off value is not universal and should be determined for each region and for each disease condition.

Keywords: ROC curve; diagnostic tests; prevalence; sensitivity; specificity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity