GRADE guidelines: 20. Assessing the certainty of evidence in the importance of outcomes or values and preferences—inconsistency, imprecision, and other domains
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OBJECTIVE: To provide Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) guidance for assessing inconsistency, imprecision, and other domains for the certainty of evidence about the relative importance of outcomes. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: We applied the GRADE domains to rate the certainty of evidence in the importance of outcomes to several systematic reviews, iteratively reviewed draft guidance, and consulted GRADE members and other stakeholders for feedback. RESULTS: We describe the rationale for considering the remaining GRADE domains when rating the certainty in a body of evidence for the relative importance of outcomes. As meta-analyses are not common in this context, inconsistency and imprecision assessments are challenging. Furthermore, confusion exists about inconsistency, imprecision, and true variability in the relative importance of outcomes. To clarify this issue, we suggest that the true variability is neither equivalent to inconsistency nor imprecision. Specifically, inconsistency arises from population, intervention, comparison and outcome and methodological elements that should be explored and, if possible, explained. The width of the confidence interval and sample size inform judgments about imprecision. We also provide suggestions on how to detect publication bias and discuss the domains to rate up the certainty. CONCLUSION: We provide guidance and examples for rating inconsistency, imprecision, and other domains for a body of evidence describing the relative importance of outcomes.
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