The feasibility of a search filter for the adverse effects of nondrug interventions in MEDLINE and Embase

Su Golder, Kath Wright, Yoon K. Loke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Authors and indexers are increasingly including terms for adverse drug effects in the titles, abstracts or indexing of records in MEDLINE and Embase. However, it is not clear if this is the same for studies with non-drug adverse effects data. 

We therefore assessed the feasibility of using adverse effects terms when searching MEDLINE or Emabse to retrieve papers of non-drug adverse effects. 

A collection of papers that reported data on non-drug adverse effects was sought from included studies of systematic reviews. Each included study was analysed to ascertain whether the corresponding record in MEDLINE and Embase included adverse effects terms in the title, abstract or indexing. 

From 9,129 records screened from DARE (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects), 30 reviews evaluating non-drug adverse effects met our inclusion criteria. From these, 635 unique papers were included in our analysis. 

Sensitive searches for adverse effects required generic and specific named adverse effects terms using the title, abstract and indexing. Records relating to surgical interventions were more likely to contain adverse effects terms than records relating to non-surgical interventions. Using any adverse effects terms in the title, abstract or indexing in MEDLINE and Embase would have identified an average of 94% of papers on surgical adverse effect interventions per systematic review and 72% of papers on non-surgical adverse effects per systematic review. 

Hence, while a generic non-drug adverse effect search filter may not yet be feasible, a filter for the adverse effects of surgical interventions may be within reach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506–513
Number of pages8
JournalResearch Synthesis Methods
Issue number4
Early online date11 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Adverse Effects
  • Complications
  • Information storage and retrieval
  • Literature searching
  • Medline

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