A systematic review of recent clinical practice guidelines and best practice statements for the evaluation of the infertile male

Abstract

Purpose

We systematically identified and reviewed the methods and consistency of recommendations of recently developed clinical practice guidelines (CPG) and best practice statements (BPS) on the evaluation of the infertile male.

Methods

MEDLINE and related engines as well as guidelines’ Web sites were searched for CPG and BPS written in English on the general evaluation of male infertility published between January 2008 and April 2015.

Results

Four guidelines were identified, all of which reported to have been recently updated. Systematic review was not consistently used in the BPS despite being reported in the CPG. Only one of them reported having a patient representative in its development team. The CPG issued by the European Association of Urology (EAU) graded some recommendations and related that to levels (but not quality) of evidence. Overall, the BPS issued respectively by the American Urological Association and American Society for Reproductive Medicine concurred with each other, but both differed from the EAU guidelines with regard to methods of collection, extraction and interpretation of data. None of the guidelines incorporated health economics. Important specific limitations of conventional semen analysis results were ignored by all guidelines. Besides variation in the methodological quality, implementation strategies were not reported in two out of four guidelines.

Conclusions

While the various panels of experts who contributed to the development of the CPG and BPS reviewed should be commended on their tremendous efforts aiming to establish a clinical standard in both the evaluation and management of male infertility, we recognized inconsistencies in the methodology of their synthesis and in the contents of their final recommendations. These discrepancies pose a barrier in the general implementation of these guidelines and may limit their utility in standardizing clinical practice or improving health-related outcomes. Continuous efforts are needed to generate high-quality evidence to allow further development of these important guidelines for the evaluation and management of males suffering from infertility.

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Correspondence to Sandro C. Esteves.

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Esteves, S.C., Chan, P. A systematic review of recent clinical practice guidelines and best practice statements for the evaluation of the infertile male. Int Urol Nephrol 47, 1441–1456 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11255-015-1059-0

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Keywords

  • Clinical practice guidelines
  • Diagnosis
  • Male infertility
  • Standards
  • Systematic review