6. Recommendations

Author(s): 
Jo.Robays
Author(s): 
Joan.Vlayen

The strength of a recommendation reflects the extent to which a guideline panel is confident that desirable effects of an intervention outweigh undesirable effects, or vice versa, across the range of patients for whom the recommendation is intended. GRADE specifies only two categories of the strength of a recommendation. While GRADE suggests using the terms strong and weak recommendations, those making recommendations may choose different wording to characterize the two categories of strength.


For a guideline panel or others making recommendations to offer a strong recommendation, they have to be certain about the various factors that influence the strength of a recommendation. The panel also should have the relevant information at hand that supports a clear balance towards either the desirable effects of an intervention (to recommend an action) or undesirable effects (to recommend against an action). A strong recommendation is one for which the guideline panel is confident that the desirable effects of an intervention outweigh its undesirable effects (strong recommendation for an intervention) or that the undesirable effects of an intervention outweigh its desirable effects (strong recommendation against an intervention). A strong recommendation implies, that most or all individuals will be best served by the recommended course of action.


When a guideline panel is uncertain whether the balance is clear or when the relevant information about the various factors that influence the strength of a recommendation is not available, a guideline panel should be more cautious and in most instances it would opt to make a weak recommendation. A weak recommendation is one for which the desirable effects probably outweigh the undesirable effects (weak recommendation for an intervention) or undesirable effects probably outweigh the desirable effects (weak recommendation against an intervention) but appreciable uncertainty exists. A weak recommendation implies, that not all individuals will be best served by the recommended course of action. There is a need to consider more carefully than usual individual patient’s circumstances, preferences, and values.