Adherence to Cardiac Practice Guidelines in the Management of Non-ST-Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes: A Systematic Literature Review

Josien Engel, Nikki L. Damen, Ineke van der Wulp, Martine C. de Bruijne, Cordula Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: In the management of non-ST-elevation acute coronary syndrome (NSTACS) a gap between guideline-recommended care and actual practice has been reported. A systematic overview of the actual extent of this gap, its potential impact on patient-outcomes, and influential factors is lacking.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the extent of guideline adherence, to study associations with the occurrence of adverse cardiac events, and to identify factors associated with guideline adherence.

METHOD: Systematic literature review, for which PUBMED, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane library were searched until March 2016. Further, a manual search was performed using reference lists of included studies. Two reviewers independently performed quality-assessment and data extraction of the eligible studies.

RESULTS: Adherence rates varied widely within and between 45 eligible studies, ranging from less than 5.0 % to more than 95.0 % for recommendations on acute and discharge pharmacological treatment, 34.3 % - 93.0 % for risk stratification, and 16.0 % - 95.8 % for performing coronary angiography. Seven studies indicated that higher adherence rates were associated with lower mortality. Several patient-related (e.g. age, gender, co-morbidities) and organization-related (e.g. teaching hospital) factors influencing adherence were identified.

CONCLUSION: This review showed wide variation in guideline adherence, with a substantial proportion of NST-ACS patients possibly not receiving guideline-recommended care. Consequently, lower adherence might be associated with a higher risk for poor prognosis. Future research should further investigate the complex nature of guideline adherence in NST-ACS, its impact on clinical care, and factors influencing adherence. This knowledge is essential to optimize clinical management of NSTACS patients and could guide future quality improvement initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages25
JournalCurrent Cardiology Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Acute coronary syndrome [MeSH]
  • guideline adherence [MeSH]
  • systematic review
  • unstable angina [MeSH]

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