To critically appraise the methodological quality of clinical practice guidelines for headache produced over the last two decades, including those covering specific interventions using Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The guidelines on headache disorders were obtained by searching a number of databases, including PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure Database, China Science and Technology Journal Database, and Wanfang database, three guideline-related databases [Guideline-International Network, National Guideline Clearinghouse, and Medlive], and the records of organizations that develop guidelines. The publication date was limited to the period from January 1996 to June 2015. The search terms “headache”, “headache disorders”, “cephalalgia”, “migraine”, “tension-type headache”, “practice guideline”, “consensus “, “statement”, “regulation”, and “recommendation” were used in the “MeSH” and “Free-text” fields. The guidelines were independently appraised by four researchers using the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation Ⅱ instrument.
A total of 23 guidelines published between 1998 and 2014 were reviewed. The overall consistency of the four appraisers was good [interclass correlation coefficient 0.84; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.82-0.86]. The mean (standard deviation) scores for scope and purpose, stakeholder involvement, rigor of development, clarity of presentation, applicability, and editorial independence were 52.1 (18.0), 39.5 (17.1), 33.4 (21.0), 49.8 (21.9), 23.8 (19.3), and 24.2 (23.7). Only two guidelines were recommended, 12 were recommended with modification, and nine were not recommended.
Physical Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies were recommended to treat headache. The overall quality of headache guidelines was low in China, but evidence-based guidelines are gradually becoming mainstream. Guideline developers should carefully consider, in particular, three domains: rigor of development, applicability, and editorial independence.