Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been developed to provide health-care practitioners with the best possible evidence, but the quality of these CPGs varies greatly.
The goal of this study was to systematically evaluate the quality of cough CPGs and identify gaps limiting evidence-based practice.
Systematic searches were conducted to identify cough CPGs in guideline databases, developers’ Websites, and Medline. Four reviewers independently evaluated eligible guidelines by using the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation II assessment tool. Agreement among reviewers was measured by using the intraclass correlation coefficient. The number of recommendations, strength of recommendation, and levels of evidence were determined.
Fifteen cough CPGs were identified. An overall high degree of agreement among reviewers was observed (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.82 [95% CI, 0.79-0.85]). The quality ranged from good to acceptable in the scope and purpose (mean, 72%; range, 54%-93%) and clarity and presentation (mean, 68%; range, 50%-90%) domains but not in stakeholder involvement (mean, 36%; range, 18%-90%), rigor of development (mean, 36%; range, 9%-93%), applicability (mean, 23%; range, 9%-83%), and editorial independence domains (mean, 24%; range, 0-96%). Seven guidelines (46.7%) were considered “strongly recommended” or “recommended with modifications” for clinical practice. More than 70% of recommendations were based on nonrandomized studies (Level C, 30.4%) and expert opinion (Level D, 41.3%).
The quality of cough CPGs is variable, and recommendations are largely based on low-quality evidence. There is significant room for improvement to develop high-quality guidelines, which urgently warrants first-class research to minimize the vital gaps in the evidence for formulation of cough CPGs.