Development and validation of a MEDLINE search filter/hedge for degenerative cervical myelopathy.
BACKGROUND: Degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) is a common condition with many unmet clinical needs. Pooled analysis of studies is an important tool for advancing medical understanding. This process starts with a systematic search of the literature. Identification of studies in DCM is challenged by a number of factors, including non-specific terminology and index terms. Search filters or HEDGEs, are search strings developed and validated to optimise medical literature searches. We aimed to develop a search filter for DCM for the MEDLINE database. METHODS: The diagnostic test assessment framework of a "development dataset" and seperate "validation dataset" was used. The development dataset was formed by hand searching four leading spinal journals (Spine, Journal of Neurosurgery Spine, Spinal Cord and Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques) in 2005 and 2010. The search filter was initially developed focusing on sensitivity and subsequently refined using NOT functions to improve specificity. One validation dataset was formed from DCM narrative and systematic review articles and the second, articles published in April of 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017 retrieved via the search MeSH term 'Spine'. Metrics of sensitivity, specificity, precision and accuracy were used to test performance. RESULTS: Hand searching identified 77/1094 relevant articles for 2005 and 55/1199 for 2010. We developed a search hedge with 100% sensitivity and a precision of 30 and 29% for the 2005 and 2010 development datasets respectively. For the selected time periods, EXP Spine returned 2113 publications and 30 were considered relevant. The search filter identified all 30 relevant articles, with a specificity of 94% and precision of 20%. Of the 255 references listed in the narrative index reviews, 225 were indexed in MEDLINE and 165 (73%) were relevant articles. All relevant articles were identified and accuracy ranged from 67 to 97% over the three reviews. Of the 42 articles returned from 3 recent systematic reviews, all were identified by the filter. CONCLUSIONS: We have developed a highly sensitive hedge for the research of DCM. Whilst precision is similarly low as other hedges, this search filter can be used as an adjunct for DCM search strategies.