A critical review of the American Pain Society clinical practice guidelines for interventional techniques: part 1. Diagnostic interventions

Pain Physician. 2010 May-Jun;13(3):E141-74.


Background: Clinical guidelines are defined as systematically developed statements to assist practitioner and patient decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances. The clinical guideline industry has been erupting even faster than innovation in health care, constantly adding unhealthy perspectives with broad and complex mandates to health care interventions. Clinical guidelines are based on evidence-based medicine (EBM) and comparative effectiveness research (CER). Multiple issues related to the development of clinical guidelines are based on conflicts of interest, controversies, and limitations of the guideline process. Recently, the American Pain Society (APS) developed and published multiple guidelines in managing low back pain resulting in multiple publications. However, these guidelines have been questioned regarding their development process, their implementation, and their impact on various specialties.

Objectives: To reassess the APS guidelines' evidence synthesis for low back pain diagnostic interventions using the same methodology utilized by the APS authors. The interventions examined were diagnostic techniques for managing low back pain of facet joint origin, discogenic origin, and sacroiliac joint origin.

Methods: A literature search by two authors was carried out utilizing appropriate databases from 1966 through July 2008. Methodologic quality assessment was also performed by at least 2 authors utilizing the same criteria applied in APS guidelines. The guideline reassessment process included the evaluation of individual studies and systematic reviews and the translation into practice recommendations.

Results: Our reassessment of Chou et al's evaluation, utilizing Chou et al's criteria, showed good evidence for lumbar facet joint nerve blocks, fair evidence for lumbar provocation discography, and fair to poor evidence for sacroiliac joint blocks to diagnose sacroiliac joint pain. The reassessment illustrates that Chou et al have utilized multiple studies inappropriately and have excluded appropriate studies. Also, Chou et al failed to eliminate their bias in their study evaluations.

Conclusion: The reassessment, using appropriate methodology and including high quality studies, shows evidence that differs from published APS guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / diagnostic imaging
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Nerve Block
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Radiography
  • Sacroiliac Joint
  • Societies, Medical*
  • United States