December 2007

A Personal ViewProbability in Medicine, Levels of (Un)Certainty, and the Diagnosis of Orbital Disease (With Particular Reference to Orbital “Pseudotumor”)

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2007 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2007

Arch Ophthalmol. 2007;125(12):1711-1712. doi:10.1001/archopht.125.12.1711

Generally without recognition, every person's life is daily affected by a series of “probability models” that profoundly affect his or her future. Without any form of interference, the “crude” probability of breaking a leg during a single day might be 50%. This crude probability is reduced, perhaps 100-fold, by opening the eyes and watching the floor while walking about; this latter probability is further diminished, say 10-fold, by removing any children's toys strewn over the floor and stairs. The probability—already reduced to 0.05%—can be significantly improved (probably by 4 orders of magnitude) by checking for traffic before crossing the road and by caution while standing at the edge of the station platform. The risk of breaking a leg—now reaching a more acceptable level (0.000005%)—continues to be affected by largely unalterable short-term fluctuations (injury by a rogue motorist or a remote chance of building collapse) or longer-term fluctuations, such as critical weakening of a long bone by osteoporosis or the presence of a metastasis.

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