Appraisal of: Golder S, Wright K, Rodgers M. Failure or success of search strategies to identify adverse effects of medical devices: a feasibility study using a systematic review. Syst Rev 2014;3:113.

Short description: 

A systematic review of the safety of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) for spinal fusion was used as a case study to investigate whether adverse effects terms were prevalent in the bibliographic records of the included studies. The aim of the study was to assess whether the development of a search filter for medical devices would be feasible.

Out of the 82 publications (49 studies) included in the systematic review, 51 were indexed in MEDLINE and 55 in Embase. The results showed that 94% of the MEDLINE records and 95% of the Embase records contained at least one adverse effects related term. However, the records contained a wide range of adverse effects terms, and no single term was able to retrieve the majority of the included publications. In addition, the most successful search terms were different from search terms shown to be most successful when searching for adverse drug effects. The study concluded that the development of adverse effects search filters for medical devices is feasible, but that such filters should be developed using a large set of relevant records in order to identify the optimal combination of search terms.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

The main limitation to this study is that because only one systematic review was used as a case study, the generalisability of the study results is limited. This case study is also of a medical device with a pharmaceutical component, while a case study of a different kind of a medical device might have given different results.

In addition, unlike many other HTAs and systematic review authors, the study authors were able to obtain unpublished data directly from the manufacturer. They also included an unusually high number of conference abstracts and multiple publications for the same study in their review. This might have influenced the findings of this study.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
No additional limitations detected by the reviewers.
Study Type: 
Single study

Comments from the authors:

This publication is related to Su Golder’s PhD Thesis “Evaluating and Optimising the Retrieval of Research Evidence for Systematic Reviews of Adverse Drug Effects and Adverse Drug Reactions” from 2013. The thesis is available from