Diagnostic test systematic reviews: bibliographic search filters ("Clinical Queries") for diagnostic accuracy studies perform well

J Clin Epidemiol. 2009 Sep;62(9):974-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.11.006. Epub 2009 Feb 20.


Background: Systematic reviews of health care topics are valuable summaries of all pertinent studies on focused questions. However, finding all relevant primary studies for systematic reviews remains challenging.

Objectives: To determine the performance of the Clinical Queries sensitive search filter for diagnostic accuracy studies for retrieving studies for systematic reviews.

Methods: We compared the yield of the sensitive Clinical Queries diagnosis search filter for MEDLINE and EMBASE to retrieve studies in diagnostic accuracy systematic reviews reported in ACP Journal Club in 2006.

Results: Twelve of 22 diagnostic accuracy reviews (452 included studies) met the inclusion criteria. After excluding 11 studies not in MEDLINE or EMBASE, 95% of articles (417 of 441) were captured by the sensitive Clinical Queries diagnosis search filter (MEDLINE and EMBASE combined). Of 24 studies not retrieved by the filter, 22 were not diagnostic accuracy studies. Reanalysis of the Clinical Queries filter without these 22 nondiagnosis articles increased its performance to 99% (417 of 419). We found no substantive impact of the two articles missed by the Clinical Queries filter on the conclusions of the systematic reviews in which they were cited.

Conclusion: The sensitive Clinical Queries diagnostic search filter captured 99% of articles and 100% of substantive articles indexed in MEDLINE and EMBASE in diagnostic accuracy systematic reviews.

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / standards*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Review Literature as Topic*