Appraisal of: Sampson M, Shojania KG, McGowan J, Daniel R, Rader T, Iansavichene AE et al. Surveillance search techniques identified the need to update systematic reviews. J Clin Epidemiol 2008; 61(8): 755-762.

Short description: 

The article reports on literature surveillance methods to identify new evidence eligible for updating systematic reviews. Five surveillance search approaches are tested in the context of identifying studies that would signal major or invalidating new evidence for existing systematic reviews of health care interventions.

Searches were tested in a cohort of 77 systematic reviews. No one method yielded consistently high recall of relevant new evidence, so combinations of the strategies were examined. A search algorithm based on PubMed’s related article search in combination with a subject searching using clinical queries was the most effective combination, retrieving all relevant new records in 68 cases. Citing RCT searching found unique material in only 2 cases (recall 37%).

Surveillance for emerging evidence that signals the need to update systematic reviews is feasible using a combination of subject searching and searching based on the PubMed’s related article function.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

The retrospective observational design used here has certain limitations including absence of control over data collectiondin the case of the CENTRAL database, where indexing dates of records are not recorded; this limited our ability to determine when new evidence would have been available to reviewers. Our assessment of the point at which a review was in need of update could have been influenced by our access to subsequent confirmatory evidence, although any resulting bias would influence each search approach equally.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
No additional limitations were detected by the authors.
Study Type: 
Single study