The quality of clinical practice guidelines in hand therapy
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Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) should consist of treatment recommendations that assist hand therapists in providing high-quality cost-effective care to specific patients based on the highest level of available evidence. This requires CPGs to be developed using a rigorous process based on evidence, appraisal of both original studies and expert opinion, and a process for multiple reviewers to evaluate the draft CPG. This study identified CPGs relevant to hand therapy and then evaluated their quality using the AGREE quality assessment tool. The majority of guidelines were not evidence-based and were of extremely low quality. Two guidelines were produced using a rigorous process that emphasized comparative clinical trials. These were able to provide only a single treatment recommendation, that ultrasound is effective for calcific tendinitis of the shoulder. Hand therapists need to move away from opinion- or clinic-based protocols and toward more evidence-based treatment guidelines. However, the value of treatment guidelines must be tested, not assumed, regardless of the development process.
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