Objective: To assess the quality of guidelines published in peer-reviewed literature concerning the role of physiotherapy in the management of patients with RA.
Methods: A systematic literature search for clinical practice guidelines that included physiotherapy interventions was performed in four electronic databases. We assessed the quality of the selected guidelines using the appraisal of guidelines for research and evaluation (AGREE) instrument. In addition, the recommendations of guidelines with the highest quality scores were summarized.
Results: Eight clinical practice guidelines fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Scope/purpose was the most often adequately addressed AGREE domain (in seven of the eight guidelines) and applicability the least (in two of the eight guidelines). Based on the AGREE domain scores, six guidelines could be recommended or strongly recommended for clinical use. Five out of these six (strongly) recommended guidelines included a recommendation on exercise therapy and/or patient education, with these interventions being recommended in every case. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and thermotherapy were recommended in four of these six guidelines. US, thermotherapy, low-level laser therapy, massage, passive mobilization and balneotherapy were addressed in one or two of these six guidelines.
Conclusion: Six of eight clinical practice guidelines addressing physiotherapy interventions were recommended or strongly recommended according to the AGREE instrument. In general, guideline recommendations on physiotherapy intervention, from both the recommended guidelines as well as from the not recommended guidelines, lacked detail concerning mode of delivery, intensity, frequency and duration.