Abstract : BACKGROUND: As more scientific work is published, it is important to improve access to the biomedical literature. Since 2000, when Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) Concepts were introduced, the MeSH Thesaurus has been concept based. Nevertheless, information retrieval is still performed at the MeSH Descriptor or Supplementary Concept level. OBJECTIVE: The study assesses the benefit of using MeSH Concepts for indexing and information retrieval. METHODS: Three sets of queries were built for thirty-two rare diseases and twenty-two chronic diseases: (1) using PubMed Automatic Term Mapping (ATM), (2) using Catalog and Index of French-language Health Internet (CISMeF) ATM, and (3) extrapolating the MEDLINE citations that should be indexed with a MeSH Concept. RESULTS: Type 3 queries retrieve significantly fewer results than type 1 or type 2 queries (about 18,000 citations versus 200,000 for rare diseases; about 300,000 citations versus 2,000,000 for chronic diseases). CISMeF ATM also provides better precision than PubMed ATM for both disease categories. DISCUSSION: Using MeSH Concept indexing instead of ATM is theoretically possible to improve retrieval performance with the current indexing policy. However, using MeSH Concept information retrieval and indexing rules would be a fundamentally better approach. These modifications have already been implemented in the CISMeF search engine.