Appraisal of: "Preston L, Carroll C, Gardois P, Paisley S, Kaltenthaler E. Improving search efficiency for systematic reviews of diagnostic test accuracy: an exploratory study to assess the viability of limiting to MEDLINE, EMBASE and reference checking."

Short description: 

This exploratory study analysed a convenience sample of nine Health Technology Assessments (HTA) reviews of diagnostic test accuracy (DTA) to identify which of the included citations were indexed on MEDLINE or EMBASE; to identify the number and proportion of citations that were retrieved by the search strategies with or without the addition of checking the reference lists of included studies.                     

Of the 302 included citations included in the nine reviews, 287 (95%) were indexed in MEDLINE and EMBASE. The reviews searches accounted for 256 (85%) of the included citations and a further 24 (8%) could be identified from the reference lists of included citations. 7% of the citations (22/302) were not found by searching or reference checking.

The proportion of citations identified using both searches of MEDLINE, and EMBASE and checking the reference lists resulted in the identification of 280/302 (93%) included studies. The authors suggest that there might be a case for restricting systematic review searches  of DTA studies to MEDLINE, EMBASE and the reference lists of included studies. 

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

The study’s pragmatic, convenience sample of a small number of published DTA reviews was intended as an exploratory analysis only. The  authors did not conduct an analysis to assess the impact of excluding the unidentified studies on the conclusions of the HTAs, so the results of the study are uncertain. 

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
Six of the nine studies in the sample used a published filter for diagnostic studies, which is not recommended by Cochrane. This may have impacted the sensitivity of the searches and the sample not be representative of other DTA reviews.
Study Type: 
Single study
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