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Health Info Libr J. 2012 Jun;29(2):141-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2012.00980.x. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

The performance of adverse effects search filters in MEDLINE and EMBASE.

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  • 1Centre for Reviews and Dissemination-CRD, University of York, York, UK.



 Search filters can potentially improve the efficiency of searches involving electronic databases such as medline and embase. Although search filters have been developed for identifying records that contain adverse effects data, little is known about the sensitivity of such filters.


 This study measured the sensitivity of using available adverse effects filters to retrieve papers with adverse effects data.


  A total of 233 included studies from 26 systematic reviews of adverse effects were used for analysis. Search filters from medline and embase were tested for their sensitivity in retrieving the records included in these reviews. In addition, the sensitivity of each individual search term used in at least one search filter was measured.


 Subheadings proved the most useful search terms in both medline and embase. No indexing terms in medline achieved over 12% sensitivity. The sensitivity of published search filters varied in medline from 3% to 93% and in embase from 57% to 97%. Whether this level of sensitivity is acceptable will be dependent on the purpose of the search.


 Although no adverse effects search filter captured all the relevant records, high sensitivity could be achieved. Search filters may therefore be useful in retrieving adverse effects data.

© 2012 The authors. Health Information and Libraries Journal © 2012 Health Libraries Group Health Information and Libraries Journal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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