Interview with Dr. Su Golder, University of York
Embase is an essential resource for the post-market monitoring of medical devices
Adverse events are the focus of Dr. Su Golder’s work at the University of York. She develops and evaluates methods for searching for adverse events across a broad range of literature sources, including social media.
When I was doing my PhD, I took a critical look at the databases used for adverse event searches. A lot of systematic reviews rely on MEDLINE® for data and the opinion is that it returns the most records. This was not the case! It actually placed fourth; Embase was first. It’s important to realize that the reality doesn’t always match our expectations if we’re looking for the best search results.
The main challenge in finding adverse events is that, as Golder explains,
they are generally poorly reported. Adverse events are often the second or third focus of a paper, so you are really reliant on indexing to find them. They’re unlikely to be mentioned in the title or abstract. If you rely on the title and abstract, you rely on what the author puts there, and if the adverse event is not the primary outcome in the paper, it won’t be included. That means, you need to order the full text of many more articles and read them all.
To find a higher percentage of adverse events, Dr. Golder looks to Embase.
Subheadings in databases like Embase provide the most useful support for finding adverse events, but not every database has indexing or subheading, explains Golder. To compare,
using the floating subheading ‘side effect’ in Embase, 83% of adverse events were identified. That’s good but you need to use more search terms to find 100%. In MEDLINE, the best term was an adverse event subheading that only returned 51%.
"Subheadings in databases like Embase provide the most useful support for finding adverse events, but not every database has indexing or subheadings." Dr. Su Golder, Research Fellow, University of York
I’ve used Embase for 15 years says Golder.
It’s extremely useful for SRs. You find a lot of information that you won’t find in MEDLINE. Furthermore, Embase is an essential resource for post-market monitoring of medical devices. I can’t imagine doing that kind of safety monitoring without it. Ultimately, Embase is a crucial part of my research and work.