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Table 3 Candidate search terms for MEDLINE

From: Identifying observational studies of surgical interventions in MEDLINE and EMBASE

Search Term Reference Standard retrieved (N = 206) Total retrieved (N = 1564) Sensitivity Precision Specificity
Controlled Thesaurus Terms
Case-control studies/ 2 8 1.0 25.0 99.5
Cohort studies/ 5 16 2.4 31.2 99.2
Comparative studies/ 106 326 51.5 32.5 83.8
Follow-up studies/ 35 135 17.0 25.9 92.6
Prospective studies/ 68 240 33.0 28.3 87.3
Retrospective studies/ 78 282 37.9 27.7 85.0
Time factors/ 15 60 7.3 25.0 96.7
Treatment outcome/ 75 323 36.4 23.2 81.7
Case reports.pt 5 393 2.4 1.3 71.4
Clinical trial.pt 25 139 12.1 18.0 91.6
Evaluation studies.pt 12 44 5.8 27.3 97.6
Textwords (.tw)
baseline 16 49 7.8 32.6 97.6
case control$ 3 10 1.5 30.0 99.5
case series 28 132 13.6 21.2 92.3
cases 40 223 19.4 17.9 86.5
chang$ 56 310 27.2 18.1 81.3
cohort 10 24 4.8 41.7 99.0
compare$ or compara$ 98 312 47.6 31.4 84.2
consecutive$ 56 163 27.2 34.4 92.1
evaluat$ 100 499 48.5 20.0 70.6
follow$ 59 272 28.6 21.7 84.3
non compara$ or noncompara$ 14 83 6.8 16.9 94.9
non random$ or nonrandom$ 19 51 9.2 37.2 97.6
observational 3 22 1.5 13.6 98.6
post operat$ or postoperat$ 105 538 51.0 19.5 68.1
pre operat$ or preoperat$ 110 454 53.4 24.2 74.7
prospective$ 60 216 29.1 27.8 88.5
retrospective$ 66 242 32.0 27.3 87.0
reviewed 19 67 9.2 28.4 96.5
MeSH and/or Textword (.mp)
case control 4 12 1.9 33.3 99.4
cohort 11 29 5.3 37.9 98.7
compare$ or compara$ 135 464 65.5 29.1 75.8
follow$ 68 312 33.0 21.8 82.0
prospective$ 69 260 33.5 26.5 85.9
retrospective$ 79 296 38.3 26.7 84.0
postoperat$ or post operat$ 130 752 63.1 17.3 54.2
preoperat$ or pre operat$ 112 466 54.4 24.0 73.9
  1. Key
  2. / MeSH term
  3. pt Term from publication type field
  4. tw Text word(s) from title and/or abstract fields
  5. mp Term from MeSH and/or title and/or abstract fields.
  6. $ Truncation symbol