When I search extensively for systematic reviews I prefer OVID MEDLINE to PubMed for several reasons. Among them, it is easier to build a systematic search in OVID, the search history has a more structured format that is easy to edit, the search features are more advanced giving you more control over the search and translation of the a search to OVID EMBASE, PSYCHINFO and the Cochrane Library is “peanuts”, relatively speaking.
However, there are at least two things to keep in mind when searching OVID MEDLINE instead of PubMed.
1. You may miss publications, most notably recent papers.
PubMed doesn’t only provide access to MEDLINE, but also contains some other citations, including in-process citations which provide a record for an article before it is indexed with MeSH and added to MEDLINE.
As previously mentioned, I once missed a crucial RCT that was available in PubMed, but not yet available in OVID/MEDLINE.
A few weeks ago one of my clients said that she found 3 important papers with a simple PubMed search that were not retrieved by my exhaustive OVID MEDLINE (Doh!).
All articles were recent ones [Epub ahead of print, PubMed – as supplied by publisher]. I checked that these articles were indeed not yet included in OVID MEDLINE, and they weren’t.
As said, PubMed doesn’t have all search features of OVID MEDLINE and I felt a certain reluctance to make a completely new exhaustive search in PubMed. I would probably retrieve many irrelevant papers which I had tried to avoid by searching OVID*. I therefore decided to roughly translate the OVID search using textwords only (the missed articles had no MESH attached). It was a matter of copy-pasting the single textwords from the OVID MEDLINE search (and omitting adjacency operators) and adding the command [tiab], which means that terms are searched as textwords (in title and abstract) in PubMed (#2, only part of the long search string is shown).
To see whether all articles missed in OVID were in the non-MEDLINE set, I added the command: NOT MEDLINE[sb] (#3). Of the 332 records (#2), 28 belonged to the non-MEDLINE subset. All 3 relevant articles, not found in OVID MEDLINE, were in this set.
In total, there were 15 unique records not present in the OVID MEDLINE and EMBASE search. This additional search in PubMed was certainly worth the effort as it yielded more than 3 new relevant papers. (Apparently there was a boom in relevant papers on the topic, recently)
In conclusion, when doing an exhaustive search in OVID MEDLINE it is worth doing an additional search in PubMed to find the non-MEDLINE papers. Regularly these are very relevant papers that you wouldn’t like to have missed. Dependent on your aim you can suffice with a simpler, broader search for only textwords and limit by using NOT MEDLINE[sb].**
From now on, I will always include this PubMed step in my exhaustive searches.
2. OVID MEDLINE contains duplicate records
I use Reference Manager to deduplicate the records retrieved from all databases and I share the final database with my client. I keep track of the number of hits in each database and of the number of duplicates to facilitate the reporting of the search procedure later on (using the PRISM flowchart, see above). During this procedure, I noticed that I always got LESS records in Reference Manager when I imported records from OVID MEDLINE, but not when I imported records from the other databases. Thus it appears that OVID MEDLINE contains duplicate records.
For me it was just a fact that there were duplicate records in OVID MEDLINE. But others were surprised to hear this.
Where everyone just wrote down the number of total number hits in OVID MEDLINE, I always used the number of hits after deduplication in Reference Manager. But this is a quite a detour and not easy to explain in the PRISM-flowchart.
I wondered whether this deduplication could be done in OVID MEDLINE directly. I knew you cold deduplicate a multifile search, but would it also be possible to deduplicate a set from one database only? According to OVID help there should be a button somewhere, but I couldn’t find it (curious if you can).
Googling I found another OVID manual saying :
..dedup n = Removes duplicate records from multifile search results. For example, ..dedup 5 removes duplicate records from the multifile results set numbered 5.
Although the manual only talked about “multifile searches”, I tried the comment (..dedup 34) on the final search set (34) in OVID MEDLINE, and voilà, 21 duplicates were found (exactly the same number as removed by Reference manager)
The duplicates had the same PubMed ID (PMID, the .an. command in OVID), and were identical or almost identical.
Differences that I noticed were minimal changes in the MeSH (i.e. one or more MeSH and/or subheadings changed) and changes in journal format (abbreviation used instead of full title).
Why are these duplicates present in OVID MEDLINE and not in PubMed?
These are the details of the PMID 20846254 in OVID (2 records) and in PubMed (1 record)
The Electronic Date of Publication (PHST) was September 16th 2010. 2 days later the record was included in PubMed , but MeSH were added 3 months later ((MHDA: 2011/02/12). Around this date records are also entered in OVID MEDLINE. The only difference between the 2 records in OVID MEDLINE is that one record appears to be revised at 2011-10-13, whereas the other is not.
The duplicate records of 18231698 have again the same creation date (20080527) and entry date (20081203), but one is revised 2110-20-09 and updated 2010-12-14, while the other is revised 2011-08-18 and updated 2011-08-19 (thus almost one year later).
Possibly PubMed changes some records, instantaneously replacing the old ones, but OVID only includes the new PubMed records during MEDLINE-updates and doesn’t delete the old version.
Anyway, wouldn’t it be a good thing if OVID deduplicated its MEDLINE records on a daily basis or would replace the old ones when loading new records from MEDLINE?
In the meantime, I would recommend to apply the deduplicate command yourself to get the exact number of unique records retrieved by your search in OVID MEDLINE.
*mostly because PubMed doesn’t have an adjacency-operator.
** Of course, only if you have already an extensive OVID MEDLINE search.
- What’s the Difference Between MEDLINE and PubMed? Fact Sheet (nlm.nih.gov)
- FUTON Bias. Or Why Limiting to Free Full Text Might not Always be a Good Idea. (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
- Updated Online Tutorials for NCBI resources including an NCBI Overview and PubMed and the Gene Expression Omnibus tutorials (prweb.com)
- PubMed’s Higher Sensitivity than OVID MEDLINE… & other Published Clichés. (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)