Since 1980, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) have translated scientific evidence into clinical practice guidelines with recommendations to improve cardiovascular health. These guidelines, which are based on systematic methods to evaluate and classify evidence, provide a foundation for the delivery of quality cardiovascular care. The ACC and AHA sponsor the development and publication of clinical practice guidelines without commercial support, and members volunteer their time to the writing and review efforts.
Clinical practice guidelines provide recommendations applicable to patients with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). The focus is on medical practice in the United States, but these guidelines are relevant to patients throughout the world. Although guidelines may be used to inform regulatory or payer decisions, the intent is to improve quality of care and align with patients’ interests. Guidelines are intended to define practices meeting the needs of patients in most, but not all, circumstances, and should not replace clinical judgment.
Recommendations for guideline-directed management and therapy, which encompasses clinical evaluation, diagnostic testing, and both pharmacological and procedural treatments, are effective only when followed by both practitioners and patients. Adherence to recommendations can be enhanced by shared decision-making between clinicians and patients, with patient engagement in selecting interventions on the basis of individual values, preferences, and associated conditions and comorbidities.
The ACC/AHA Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines strives to ensure that the guideline writing committee both contains requisite expertise and is representative of the broader medical community by selecting experts from a broad array of backgrounds, representing different geographic regions, sexes, races, ethnicities, intellectual perspectives/biases, and scopes of clinical practice, and by inviting organizations and professional societies with related interests and expertise to participate as partners or collaborators. The ACC and AHA have rigorous policies and methods to ensure that documents are developed without bias or improper influence. The complete policy on relationships with industry and other entities (RWI) can be found online.
Beginning in 2017, numerous modifications to the guidelines have been and continue to be implemented to make guidelines shorter and enhance “user friendliness.” Guidelines are written and presented in a modular knowledge chunk format, in which each chunk includes a table of recommendations, a brief synopsis, recommendation-specific supportive text and, when appropriate, flow diagrams or additional tables. Hyperlinked references are provided for each modular knowledge chunk to facilitate quick access and review. More structured guidelines–including word limits (“targets”) and a web guideline supplement for useful but noncritical tables and figures–are 2 such changes. This Preamble is an abbreviated version, with the detailed version available online. The reader is encouraged to consult the full-text guideline for additional guidance and details, since the executive summary contains mainly the recommendations.
Keywords: AHA Scientific Statements; Guidelines; biomarkers, coronary artery calcium score; cardiovascular disease; cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol; diabetes mellitus; drug therapy; ezetimibe; hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase inhibitors/statins; hypercholesterolemia; lipids; patient compliance; pharmacological; primary prevention; proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 inhibitor (PCSK9) inhibitors; risk assessment; risk reduction discussion; risk treatment discussion, secondary prevention.