Guidelines summarize and evaluate all available evidence at the time of the writing process on a particular issue with the aim of assisting physicians in selecting the best management strategies for an individual patient, with a given condition, taking into account the impact on outcome, as well as the risk–benefit ratio of particular diagnostic or therapeutic means. Guidelines are no substitutes but are complements for textbooks and cover the ESC Core Curriculum topics. Guidelines and recommendations should help physicians to make decisions in their daily practice. However, the final decisions concerning an individual patient must be made by the responsible physician(s).
A large number of Guidelines have been issued in recent years by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) as well as by other societies and organizations. Because of the impact on clinical practice, quality criteria for the development of guidelines have been established in order to make all decisions transparent to the user. The recommendations for formulating and issuing ESC Guidelines can be found on the ESC website (https://www.escardio.org/guidelines-surveys/esc-guidelines/about/Pages/rules-writing.aspx). ESC Guidelines represent the official position of the ESC on a given topic and are regularly updated.
Members of this Task Force were selected by the ESC to represent professionals involved with the medical care of patients with this pathology. Selected experts in the field undertook a comprehensive review of the published evidence for diagnosis, management, and/or prevention of a given condition according to ESC Committee for Practice Guidelines (CPG) policy. A critical evaluation of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures was performed including assessment of the risk–benefit ratio. Estimates of expected health outcomes for larger populations were included, where data exist. The level of evidence and the strength of recommendation of particular treatment options were weighed and graded according to pre-defined scales, as outlined in Table 1 and Table 2.
The experts of the writing and reviewing panels filled in declarations of interest forms of all relationships which might be perceived as real or potential sources of conflicts of interest. These forms were compiled into one file and can be found on the ESC website (https://www.escardio.org/guidelines). Any changes in declarations of interest that arise during the writing period must be notified to the ESC and updated. The Task Force received its entire financial support from the ESC without any involvement from the healthcare industry.
The ESC CPG supervises and coordinates the preparation of new Guidelines produced by Task Forces, expert groups, or consensus panels. The Committee is also responsible for the endorsement process of these Guidelines. The ESC Guidelines undergo extensive review by the CPG and external experts. After appropriate revisions, it is approved by all the experts involved in the Task Force. The finalized document is approved by the CPG for publication in the European Heart Journal.
The task of developing Guidelines covers not only the integration of the most recent research, but also the creation of educational tools and implementation programmes for the recommendations. To implement the guidelines, condensed pocket guidelines versions, summary slides, booklets with essential messages, and electronic version for digital applications (smartphones, etc.) are produced. These versions are abridged and, thus, if needed, one should always refer to the full text version which is freely available on the ESC website. The National Societies of the ESC are encouraged to endorse, translate, and implement the ESC Guidelines. Implementation programmes are needed because it has been shown that the outcome of disease may be favourably influenced by the thorough application of clinical recommendations.
Surveys and registries are needed to verify that real-life daily practice is in keeping with what is recommended in the guidelines, thus completing the loop between clinical research, writing of guidelines, and implementing them into clinical practice.
The guidelines do not, however, override the individual responsibility of health professionals to make appropriate decisions in the circumstances of the individual patients, in consultation with that patient, and, where appropriate and necessary, the patient's guardian or carer. It is also the health professional's responsibility to verify the rules and regulations applicable to drugs and devices at the time of prescription.
Eur Heart J. 2011;32(14):1769-1818. © 2011 Oxford University Press
Copyright 2007 European Society of Cardiology. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.