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Vet. Res.
Volume 35, Number 6, November-December 2004
Page(s) 617 - 624
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2004) 617-624
Vet. Res. 35 (2004) 617-624
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2004042

Javelin diagrams: applications in veterinary medical decision analysis

Johann C. Detilleux

Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Liège University, Boulevard de Colonster, 4000 Liège, Belgium

(Received 22 January 2004; accepted 28 April 2004)

Abstract - This paper introduces javelin diagrams as an innovative way for depicting the results of medical decision analyses. The methods were used to determine whether, and at which values, blood lactate in Belgian White and Blue or maximum tidal volumes in Holstein calves should be measured before deciding to treat or not a calf suffering from the bovine respiratory disease complex. The different alternatives depended upon the probabilities of survival with and without treatment and upon the costs associated with a possible death, the test and the treatment. The chosen alternative was the one with the lowest expected costs. From data collected on the treated calves, the expected costs of measuring lactate (198.01 €) and tidal volumes (27.38 €) before deciding to treat or not were lower than the expected costs of directly treating sick Belgian Blue (215.39 €) and Holstein (51.55 €) calves, respectively. The treatment should be applied to sick Belgian Blue calves with blood lactate $\leq$ 7.8 mmol/L and to Holstein calves with a maximum tidal volume $\geq$ 1.81 L. At such test values, the treatment expected costs were lower than the expected costs associated with no treatment of calves with other test values. Probabilistic sensitivity analyses showing benefits in treating animals with a positive test (over not treating the animals with a negative test) were mostly invariant to changes in any cost value but were sensitive to uncertainties in probabilities of survival with or without treatment. The javelin diagrams provided a clear visual indication of such results. They depicted how and by how much the benefits were affected by uncertainties in probabilities, they proposed different information values associated with the chosen alternative, and identified directions for further research.

Key words: clinical decision analysis / javelin diagrams / bovine respiratory disease complex

Corresponding author: Johann C. Detilleux

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004