Appraisal of the Quality of Neurosurgery Clinical Practice Guidelines.

Document Type


Publication Date



Neurology and Neuroscience, Maine Medical Center

Journal Title

World Neurosurg

MeSH Headings

Information Dissemination, Neurosurgery, Periodicals as Topic, Practice Guidelines as Topic, PubMed, Publishing, Quality Assurance, Health Care


OBJECTIVE: The rate of neurosurgery guidelines publications was compared over time with all other specialties. Neurosurgical guidelines and quality of supporting evidence were then analyzed and compared by subspecialty.

METHODS: The authors first performed a PubMed search for "Neurosurgery" and "Guidelines." This was then compared against searches performed for each specialty of the American Board of Medical Specialties. The second analysis was an inventory of all neurosurgery guidelines published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Guidelines clearinghouse. All Class I evidence and Level 1 recommendations were compared for different subspecialty topics.

RESULTS: When examined from 1970-2010, the rate of increase in publication of neurosurgery guidelines was about one third of all specialties combined (P < 0.0001). However, when only looking at the past 5 years the publication rate of neurosurgery guidelines has converged upon that for all specialties. The second analysis identified 49 published guidelines for assessment. There were 2733 studies cited as supporting evidence, with only 243 of these papers considered the highest class of evidence (8.9%). These papers were used to generate 697 recommendations, of which 170 (24.4%) were considered "Level 1" recommendations.

CONCLUSION: Although initially lagging, the publication of neurosurgical guidelines has recently increased at a rate comparable with that of other specialties. However, the quality of the evidence cited consists of a relatively low number of high-quality studies from which guidelines are created. Wider implications of this must be considered when defining and measuring quality of clinical performance in neurosurgery.



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