Article Text

Download PDFPDF
55 Trends in use of the new MeSH term ‘overdiagnosis’ – a scoping review
  1. Emma Grundtvig Gram1,
  2. Barnett Kramer2,
  3. Karsten Juhl Jørgensen3,
  4. Steven Woloshin2,4
  1. 1Section of General Practice, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2Lisa Schwartz Foundation for Truth in Medicine, Hanover New Hampshire, USA
  3. 3Nordic Cochrane Centre, Odense, Denmark
  4. 4Dartmouth Institute, Hanover New Hampshire, USA


Objectives The MeSH term for ‘Overdiagnosis’ was officially introduced into the NIH National Library of Medicine on 7th Sep 2021. Our primary aim was to describe trends in what has been published under the MeSH term ‘Overdiagnosis’, i.e. how many articles are tagged per month (including time trend); which medical specialties use the term; in which journals; which article types; languages; and their reach measured using Altmetric. Our secondary aim was to compare the results of a search using the MeSH term ‘Overdiagnosis’ with a simple text search for the word ‘overdiagnosis’. Lastly, we aim to build a publicly accessible database with articles tagged with the new MeSH term, and our coding scheme.

Method This is a scoping review including everything published and tagged using the MeSH term ‘Overdiagnosis’. Our protocol was published at the Open Science Forum: Our search strategies are available in the protocol. We applied no exclusion criteria other than a publication date restriction 1st of July 2020). We collected and reported the language of the publication but restricted our coding to articles in English, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish due to resources available in the author group. We extracted data on objective and subjective measures, such as the topic of the publication and whether it addresses overdiagnosis to determine if it was appropriately indexed. We did iterative coding using a sample of papers and modified codes to ensure reliability. The topic and disease areas of each included publication were assessed using MeSH disease codes extracted from PubMed.

Results Our two searches (using either the MeSH term or free text search) included publications from July 1st 2020 to March 30th 2023. Our MeSH-term search and the comparison text-word search yielded 151 and 1,104 citations, respectively. Of the 151 citations, six were published in 2020 (4.0%), 49 in 2021 (32.5%), 80 in 2022 (53.0%), and 16 in 2023 (10.5%). We will present the results of our coding at the conference.

Conclusions The new MeSH term did not appear to capture all publications that use the term ‘Overdiagnosis’ and a MeSH term search should therefore be supplemented with a free text search. The number of publications tagged with the new MeSH term appeared to increase substantially over our observation period. We will construct a database for the field of overdiagnosis, which we aim to make available on the website for the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference. We will upload the indexed citations together with our coding scheme to ensure transparency and for others to use. We plan to update the database annually.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.