Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is so prevalent that the endorsement of management strategies by professional organizations issuing clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) will likely influence the clinical and financial resources allocated to this condition.
Objectives: To examine the content of and to critically appraise the CPGs targeting COPD.
Methods: We identified, through a MEDLINE search (from January 1990 to May 1999) and contacts with experts and professional organizations, the CPGs for the overall management of COPD. We assessed the guidelines according to an index of quality measuring 3 dimensions: the rigor of development, the context and content, and the extent to which the dissemination and implementation have been addressed. The recommendations were also examined and compared.
Results: Of the 15 CPGs we included, none was based on a systematic review of the literature. Two were independently reviewed before their release, 1 included strategies for dissemination and implementation, and 1 estimated the economic implications associated with its recommendations. The recommendations were often difficult to interpret (reviewers' agreement: kappa median, 0.41). When unanimity existed regarding the benefits of a given management modality (such as respiratory rehabilitation), discrepancies were often identified in the application of the recommendation.
Conclusions: The methodological quality of CPGs targeting COPD is limited, and there are disparities among many of their recommendations. Despite there being several CPGs worldwide, there is a need for an evidence-based summary of the literature to serve as a resource for those who provide health care to individuals with COPD.