Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology Hannover Medical School Hannover Germany German Cancer Society Berlin Germany National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Medical Oncology Branch Bethesda MD USA.
Introduction: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common reason for cancer-related death worldwide. Many countries either lack appropriate clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of HCC or the quality of their guidelines has never been evaluated. The main objective of our work was to identify published HCC guidelines and assess their quality with the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation instrument (AGREE) and their suitability regarding adaptation for future guidelines. Methods: We performed a systematic literature search on HCC clinical practice guidelines of MEDLINE, National Guidelines Clearinghouse and the Guidelines International Network. Methodological quality of selected guidelines was assessed by AGREE instrument, Version 2001. Results: A total of 268 citations were screened and 32 relevant guidelines were identified. Overall, the guidelines performed well in the clarity and presentation domain with a mean score of 67%, followed by scope and purpose (55%) and rigor of development (50%). In contrast, poor scores were given for the remaining domains: stakeholder involvement (23%), applicability (28%) and editorial independence (31%). According to the AGREE instrument four guidelines can be strongly recommended, 18 with provisos and alterations while the remaining cannot be recommended for adaptation due poor methodological quality.
Conclusion: Although existing HCC guidelines may accurately reflect agreed clinical practice, many guidelines lack proper methodological quality. Future guidelines should place more emphasis on these methodological shortcomings.