Tutorial: Using Confidence Curves in Medical Research



Confidence intervals represent a routinely used standard method to document the uncertainty of estimated effects. In most cases, for the calculation of confidence intervals the conventional fixed 95% confidence level is used. Confidence curves represent a graphical illustration of confidence intervals for confidence levels varying between 0 and 100%. Although such graphs have been repeatedly proposed under different names during the last 40 years, confidence curves are rarely used in medical research. In this paper, we introduce confidence curves and present a short historical review. We draw attention to the different interpretation of one- and two-sided statistical inference. It is shown that these two options also have influence on the plotting of appropriate confidence curves. We illustrate the use of one- and two-sided confidence curves and explain their correct interpretation. In medical research more emphasis on the choice between the one- and two-sided approaches should be given. One- and two-sided confidence curves are useful complements to the conventional methods of presenting study results. (© 2005 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)