Intended for healthcare professionals


Number needed to treat

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 13 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1269

Absolute risk reduction may be easier for patients to understand

  1. Diana North
  1. Bristol-Myers Squibb research fellow Department of General Practice, Auckland School of Medicine, Private Bag 92 019, Auckland, New Zealand

    EDITOR,—I strongly support the use of absolute risk rather than relative risk in clinical decision making1 as the higher the patient's risk before treatment the greater the benefit of treatment. In New Zealand clinical guidelines for the management of mildy raised blood pressure,2 the detection and management of dyslipidaemia,3 and the use of hormone replacement therapy4 have explicitly used the concept of absolute risk as a decision making tool. This concept, however, has been expressed as an absolute risk reduction rather than “numbers needed to treat.” This absolute …

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