Get access

Creating a multidisciplinary low back pain guideline: anatomy of a guideline adaptation process


Dr Ann Scott, Institute of Health Economics, #1200, 10405 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5J 3N4. E-mail:


Rationale, aims and objectives  A collaborative, multidisciplinary guideline adaptation process was developed to construct a single overarching, evidence-based clinical practice guideline (CPG) for all primary care practitioners responsible for the management of low back pain (LBP) to curb the use of ineffective treatments and improve patient outcomes.

Methods  The adaptation strategy, which involved multiple committees and partnerships, leveraged existing knowledge transfer connections to recruit guideline development group (GDG) members and ensure that all stakeholders had a voice in the guideline development process. Videoconferencing was used to coordinate the large, geographically dispersed GDG. Information services and health technology assessment experts were used throughout the process to lighten the GDG's workload.

Results  The GDG reviewed seven seed guidelines and drafted an Alberta-specific guideline during 10 half-day meetings over a 12-month period. The use of ad hoc subcommittees to resolve uncertainties or disagreements regarding evidence interpretation expedited the process. Challenges were encountered in dealing with subjectivity, guideline appraisal tools, evidence source limitations and inconsistencies, and the lack of sophisticated evidence analysis inherent in guideline adaptation. Strategies for overcoming these difficulties are discussed.

Conclusion  Guideline adaptation is useful when resources are limited and good-quality seed CPGs exist. The Ambassador Program successfully utilized existing stakeholder interest to create an overarching guideline that aligned guidance for LBP management across multiple primary care disciplines. Unforeseen challenges in guideline adaptation can be overcome with credible seed guidelines, a consistently applied and transparent methodology, and clear documentation of the subjective contextualization process. Multidisciplinary stakeholder input and an open, trusting relationship among all contributors will ensure that the end product is clinically meaningful.