Effectiveness of adverse effects search filters: drugs versus medical devices

Kelly Farrah, Monika Mierzwinski-Urban, Karen Cimon


Objective: The study tested the performance of adverse effects search filters when searching for safety information on medical devices, procedures, and diagnostic tests in MEDLINE and Embase.

Methods: The sensitivity of 3 filters was determined using a sample of 631 references from 131 rapid reviews related to the safety of health technologies. The references were divided into 2 sets by type of intervention: drugs and nondrug health technologies. Keyword and indexing analysis were performed on references from the nondrug testing set that 1 or more of the filters did not retrieve.

Results: For all 3 filters, sensitivity was lower for nondrug health technologies (ranging from 53%– 87%) than for drugs (88%–93%) in both databases. When tested on the nondrug health technologies set, sensitivity was lower in Embase (ranging from 53%–81%) than in MEDLINE (67%–87%) for all filters. Of the nondrug records that 1 or more of the filters missed, 39% of the missed MEDLINE records and 18% of the missed Embase records did not contain any indexing terms related to adverse events. Analyzing the titles and abstracts of nondrug records that were missed by any 1 filter, the most commonly used keywords related to adverse effects were: risk, complications, mortality, contamination, hemorrhage, and failure.

Conclusions: In this study, adverse effects filters were less effective at finding information about the safety of medical devices, procedures, and tests compared to information about the safety of drugs.


Information Storage and Retrieval, Controlled Vocabulary, Bibliographic Databases, Sensitivity and Specificity, Equipment and Supplies

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2016.15


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Copyright (c) 2016 Kelly Farrah, MLIS, AHIP

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