Guidelines warfare over interventional techniques: is there a lack of discourse or straw man?

Pain Physician. Jan-Feb 2012;15(1):E1-E26.


Guideline development seems to have lost some of its grounding as a medical science. At their best, guidelines should be a constructive response to assist practicing physicians in applying the exponentially expanding body of medical knowledge. In fact, guideline development seems to be evolving into a cottage industry with multiple, frequently discordant guidance on the same subject. Evidence Based Medicine does not always provide for conclusive opinions. With competing interests of payers, practitioners, health policy makers, and third parties benefiting from development of the guidelines as cost saving measures, guideline preparation has been described as based on pre-possession, vagary, rationalization, or congeniality of conclusion. Beyond legitimate differences in opinions regarding the evidence that could yield different guidelines there are potentials for conflicts of interest and various other issues play a major role in guideline development. As is always the case, conflicts of interest in guideline preparation must be evaluated and considered. Following the development of American Pain Society (APS) guidelines there has been an uproar in interventional pain management communities on various issues related to not only the evidence synthesis, but conflicts of interest. A recent manuscript published by Chou et al, in addition to previous publications, appears to have limited clinician involvement in the development of APS guidelines, and demonstrates some of these challenges clearly. This manuscript illustrates the deficiencies of Chou et al's criticisms, and demonstrates their significant conflicts of interest, and use a lack of appropriate evaluations in interventional pain management as a straw man to support their argument. Further, this review will attempt to demonstrate that excessive focus on this straw man has inhibited critique of what we believe to be flaws in the approach.

MeSH terms

  • Conflict of Interest*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / standards*