Epidemiology and Biostatistics Publications


Interval Estimation and Optimal Design for the Within-subject Coefficient of Variation for Continuous and Binary Variables

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BMC Medical Research Methodology






Background: In this paper we propose the use of the within-subject coefficient of variation as an index of a measurement's reliability. For continuous variables and based on its maximum likelihood estimation we derive a variance-stabilizing transformation and discuss confidence interval construction within the framework of a one-way random effects model. We investigate sample size requirements for the within-subject coefficient of variation for continuous and binary variables.

Methods: We investigate the validity of the approximate normal confidence interval by Monte Carlo simulations. In designing a reliability study, a crucial issue is the balance between the number of subjects to be recruited and the number of repeated measurements per subject. We discuss efficiency of estimation and cost considerations for the optimal allocation of the sample resources. The approach is illustrated by an example on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). We also discuss the issue of sample size estimation for dichotomous responses with two examples.

Results: For the continuous variable we found that the variance stabilizing transformation improves the asymptotic coverage probabilities on the within-subject coefficient of variation for the continuous variable. The maximum like estimation and sample size estimation based on pre-specified width of confidence interval are novel contribution to the literature for the binary variable.

Conclusion: Using the sample size formulas, we hope to help clinical epidemiologists and practicing statisticians to efficiently design reliability studies using the within-subject coefficient of variation, whether the variable of interest is continuous or binary.


Published in: BMC Medical Research Methodology, 2006, 6:24. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-6-24