Partial updating of clinical practice guidelines often makes more sense than full updating: a systematic review on methods and the development of an updating procedure

J Clin Epidemiol. 2014 Jan;67(1):33-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2013.06.021. Epub 2013 Oct 11.


Objectives: To conduct a systematic review of the methods used to determine when and how to update clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) and develop a procedure for updating CPGs.

Study design and setting: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Methodology Register for methodological publications on updating CPGs. Guideline development manuals were obtained from the Web sites of guideline-developing organizations. Using the information obtained from these records, a procedure for updating CPGs was developed.

Results: A total of 5,116 journal articles were screened, and seven articles met the criteria for inclusion. Forty-seven manuals were included; of these, eight included details about the methods used to update the guidelines. Most of the included publications focused on assessing whether the CPGs needed updating and not on how to update them. The developed procedure includes a systematic monitoring system and a scheduled process for updating the CPGs, which includes guidance on how to determine the type and scope of an update.

Conclusion: Partial updating often makes more sense than updating the whole CPG because topics and recommendations differ in terms of the need for updating. Guideline developers should implement a systematic updating procedure that includes an ongoing monitoring system that is appropriate for the nature of the guideline topics and the capabilities of the developers.

Keywords: Evidence-based practice; Guidelines; Methodology; Out-of-date; Systematic review; Updating.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*