The quality of paediatric asthma guidelines: evidence underpinning diagnostic test recommendations from a meta-epidemiological study
Thomas ET., Thomas ST., Perera R., Gill PJ., Moloney S., Heneghan CJ.
Abstract Background Asthma is one of the most frequent reasons children visit a general practitioner (GP). The diagnosis of childhood asthma is challenging, and a variety of diagnostic tests for asthma exist. GPs may refer to clinical practice guidelines when deciding which tests, if any, are appropriate, but the quality of these guidelines is unknown. Objectives To determine (i) the methodological quality and reporting of paediatric guidelines for the diagnosis of childhood asthma in primary care, and (ii) the strength of evidence supporting diagnostic test recommendations. Design Meta-epidemiological study of English-language guidelines from the United Kingdom and other high-income countries with comparable primary care systems including diagnostic testing recommendations for childhood asthma in primary care. The AGREE-II tool was used to assess the quality and reporting of the guidelines. The quality of the evidence was assessed using GRADE. Results Eleven guidelines met the eligibility criteria. The methodology and reporting quality varied across the AGREE II domains (median score 4.5 out of 7, range 2–6). The quality of evidence supporting diagnostic recommendations was generally of very low quality. All guidelines recommended the use of spirometry and reversibility testing for children aged ≥5 years, however, the recommended spirometry thresholds for diagnosis differed across guidelines. There were disagreements in testing recommendations for 3 of the 7 included tests. Conclusions The variable quality of guidelines, lack of good quality evidence, and inconsistent recommendations for diagnostic tests may contribute to poor clinician adherence to guidelines and variation in testing for diagnosing childhood asthma.