• generalized pivotal quantity;
  • generalized confidence interval;
  • non-parametric method;
  • maximum likelihood method


An important measure for comparison of accuracy between two diagnostic procedures is the difference in paired areas under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. Non-parametric and maximum likelihood methods have been proposed for interval estimation for the difference in paired areas under ROC curves. However, these two methods are asymptotic procedures and their performance in finite sample sizes has not been thoroughly investigated. We propose to use the concept of generalized pivotal quantities (GPQs) to construct an exact confidence interval for the difference in paired areas under ROC curves. A simulation study is conducted to empirically investigate the probability coverage and expected length of the three methods for various combinations of sample sizes, values of the area under the ROC curve and correlations. Simulation results demonstrate that the exact confidence interval based on the concept of GPQs provides not only sufficient probability coverage but also reasonable expected length. Numerical examples using published data sets illustrate the proposed method. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.