What are relative risk, number needed to treat and odds ratio?

Prasad, Kameshwar
December 2007
Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology;Dec2007, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p225
Academic Journal
The effects of an intervention is best measured in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and can be expressed in various ways using the measures such as risk difference, number needed to treat (NNT), relative risk or odds ratio. Risk difference (RD) is the difference in risk of the outcome event between control and experimental group. Control group is not exposed to the intervention, whereas experimental group is the one that is exposed to intervention. The risk of outcome event in the control group is also called baseline risk. The NNT is the inverse of the risk difference and indicates the number of patients required to be treated to avoid one additional outcome event. Risk difference and NNT are absolute measures of effect. Relative risk (RR) is a relative measure and is the ratio of the risk in the exposed group to that in the unexposed group. Relative risk reduction (RRR) is one minus RR and indicates the fraction (or percent) of baseline risk that reduces with exposure to the intervention. Odds ratio (OR) is ratio of odds of having the event in the exposed group to that in the unexposed group. These measures are suitable for different purposes and appeal to different constituencies. Odds ratio is the only measure suitable for use in logistic regression and case control studies.


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