Evidence-based medicine, systematic reviews, and guidelines in interventional pain management, part I: introduction and general considerations

Pain Physician. 2008 Mar-Apr;11(2):161-86.


Evidence-based medicine, systematic reviews, and guidelines are part of modern interventional pain management. As in other specialties in the United States, evidence-based medicine appears to motivate the search for answers to numerous questions related to costs and quality of health care as well as access to care. Scientific, relevant evidence is essential in clinical care, policy-making, dispute resolution, and law. Consequently, evidence based practice brings together pertinent, trustworthy information by systematically acquiring, analyzing, and transferring research findings into clinical, management, and policy arenas. In the United States, researchers, clinicians, professional organizations, and government are looking for a sensible approach to health care with practical evidence-based medicine. All modes of evidence-based practice, either in the form of evidence-based medicine, systematic reviews, meta-analysis, or guidelines, evolve through a methodological, rational accumulation, analysis, and understanding of the evidentiary knowledge that can be applied in clinical settings. Historically, evidence-based medicine is traceable to the 1700s, even though it was not explicitly defined and advanced until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Evidence-based medicine was initially called "critical appraisal" to describe the application of basic rules of evidence as they evolve into application in daily practices. Evidence-based medicine is defined as a conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. Evidence-based practice is defined based on 4 basic and important contingencies, which include recognition of the patient's problem and construction of a structured clinical question, thorough search of medical literature to retrieve the best available evidence to answer the question, critical appraisal of all available evidence, and integration of the evidence with all aspects and contexts of the clinical circumstances. Systematic reviews provide the application of scientific strategies that limit bias by the systematic assembly, critical appraisal, and synthesis of all relevant studies on a specific topic. While systematic reviews are close to meta-analysis, they are vastly different from narrative reviews and health technology assessments. Clinical practice guidelines are systematically developed statements that aim to help physicians and patients reach the best health care decisions. Appropriately developed guidelines incorporate validity, reliability, reproducibility, clinical applicability and flexibility, clarity, development through a multidisciplinary process, scheduled reviews, and documentation. Thus, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines represent statements developed to improve the quality of care, patient access, treatment outcomes, appropriateness of care, efficiency and effectiveness and achieve cost containment by improving the cost benefit ratio. Part 1 of this series in evidence-based medicine, systematic reviews, and guidelines in interventional pain management provides an introduction and general considerations of these 3 aspects in interventional pain management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Research Design
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical