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The Pediatric Forum |

Finding Effective Screening Instruments for Autism Using Bayes Theorem

Wouter B. Groen, MD; Sophie H. Swinkels, PhD; Rutger Jan van der Gaag, MD, PhD; Jan K. Buitelaar, MD, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(4):415-416. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.4.415.
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Several screening instruments for the early detection of autism in young children have been developed.14 The usefulness of these instruments in clinical practice remains to be established, because many children need to be screened to correctly identify one child with autism.

According to Bayes theorem, the chance that a disease is truly present (posttest odds) depends on both the prevalence of the disease (pretest odds) and the properties of the test (likelihood ratio). Thus, the outcome of screening tests depends on the chance of the disease being present in the population to which the test is applied. In case of rare diseases, screening instruments need to be very accurate to be useful. We assessed whether the screening tests for autism are accurate enough to overcome the low prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.

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