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'Cold is gold'? The diagnostic accuracy of sensibility and vitality testing techniques


Data sources Medline, Web of Science and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases along with Google Scholar, Greylist and OpenGrey were systematically searched (up to December 2020).

Study selection In vivo observational studies and clinical trials assessing the diagnostic accuracy of pulp vitality tests and sensibility tests in adult human teeth were screened. Exclusion criteria included non-English articles, deciduous teeth, case reports and in vitro studies.

Data extraction and synthesis Data extracted included basic study location, sample size, age of participants, pathology of teeth, type of teeth and the vitality (pulse oximetry or Laser Doppler flowmetry) or sensibility test (cold, hot and electric pulp testing) used. Measures of diagnostic accuracy were synthesised (sensitivity, sensibility, predictive values, and likelihood ratios). Meta-analysis was performed using a bivariate random-effects model producing summary values for sensitivity and specificity. Results were presented as a ROC curve. Risk of bias and the quality of the studies were assessed using the QUADAS-2 tool.

Results A total of ten studies were included in the review, of which five were included in the meta-analysis. Overall risk of bias was unclear. Pulse oximetry showed higher diagnostic accuracy than electric pulp testing and thermal testing. Insufficient data precluded quantitative analysis for Laser Doppler flowmetry.

Conclusions Pulse oximetry demonstrates greater diagnostic accuracy when compared to sensibility testing. Limited sample size and heterogeneity among the included studies limits their applicability.

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  1. Jafarzadeh H, Abbott P V. Review of pulp sensibility tests. Part II: electric pulp tests and test cavities. Int Endod J 2010; 43: 945-958.

  2. Jafarzadeh H. Laser doppler flowmetry in endodontics: a review. Int Endod J 2009; 42: 476-490.

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Adam, M. 'Cold is gold'? The diagnostic accuracy of sensibility and vitality testing techniques. Evid Based Dent 23, 137 (2022).

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