Background: Easy access to relevant clinical information is necessary for physicians to make the best decisions for patient management. The increasing amount of information available has made it difficult for physicians to retrieve up-to-date information efficiently. We sought to determine the accessibility and accuracy of indexing in the nuclear cardiology literature by conducting sample searches in the MEDLINE database on the topic of gated single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging.
Methods and results: The MEDLINE database was initially searched by use of both a primary and a comprehensive search strategy on PubMed for publications in English from 1994 to 2000. A total of 260 papers were retrieved from the primary search and 306 additional papers from the comprehensive search. Only 204 of the 566 citations from the combined electronic searches were truly relevant to gated SPECT. The resulting specificity index (precision) was 36%. A hand search was conducted in 11 top journals from 1994 to 2000. It yielded 81 additional citations that were missed by the PubMed search. The sensitivity index (recall) was calculated for all 11 journals. The Journal of Nuclear Cardiology had the highest rate of publication but the lowest rate of recall (44%). The clinical nuclear cardiology terminology and classifications were compared with the available Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and MeSH Trees used for indexing in MEDLINE.
Conclusions: There are 6 nuclear cardiology techniques, including gated SPECT and myocardial perfusion imaging, that are not specifically indexed in the current MEDLINE database. The lack of specific MeSH headings and indexing structure results in low recall and precision for retrieval of nuclear cardiology literature. We recommend 2 additions to the MeSH Tree Structure and 6 new MeSH headings.