Developing efficient search strategies to identify reports of adverse effects in medline and embase
Article first published online: 8 FEB 2006
Health Information & Libraries Journal
Volume 23, Issue 1, pages 3–12, March 2006
How to Cite
Golder, S., McIntosh, H. M., Duffy, S. and Glanville, J. (2006), Developing efficient search strategies to identify reports of adverse effects in medline and embase. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 23: 3–12. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2006.00634.x
- Issue published online: 8 FEB 2006
- Article first published online: 8 FEB 2006
- Received 18 May 2005; Accepted 25 November 2005
Objective: This study aimed to assess the performance, in terms of sensitivity and precision, of different approaches to searching medline and embase to identify studies of adverse effects.
Methods: Five approaches to searching for adverse effects evidence were identified: approach 1, using specified adverse effects; approach 2, using subheadings/qualifiers; approach 3, using text words; approach 4, using indexing terms; approach 5, searching for specific study designs. The sensitivity and precision of these five approaches, and combinations of these approaches, were compared in a case study using a systematic review of the adverse effects of seven anti-epileptic drugs.
Results: The most sensitive search strategy in medline (97.0%) required a combination of terms for specified adverse effects, floating subheadings, and text words for ‘adverse effects’. In embase, a combination of terms for specified adverse effects and text words for ‘adverse effects’ provided the most sensitive search strategy (98.6%). Both these search strategies yielded low precision (2.8%).
Conclusions: A highly sensitive search in either database requires a combination of approaches, and has low precision. This suggests that better reporting and indexing of adverse effects is required and that an effective generic search filter may not yet be feasible.