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Have guidelines lost their way?
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  • Published on:
    Have guidelines lost their way?
    • Peter C Gates, Neurologist Deakin University Waurn Ponds Victoria Australia

    With all due respect to Dr Philip Welsby 1I think he has misunderstood my paper on the 5*3*5 rule for examining the upper limb. The 5*3*5 rule is not a guideline, it represents a paradigm shift in the way we should examine the upper limbs.

    In my experience guidelines are written by experts using what little evidence we have liberally laced with "expert opinion" to help guide clinicians to manage patients. I would agree with Dr Welsby that guidelines are often complex, impossible to memorise and difficult to use.

    The 5*3*5 rule does not require any knowledge of neuroanatomy nor does it need to be memorised. The idea is that the clinician has the pictures and the tables readily available in their clinic. All they have to do is examine the muscles, establish which muscles are weak and then consult the relevant table(s). A previous rule that I have published, the rule of four of the brainstem2 is used in this way. I have been informed by colleagues that they've seen this rule on computers in Accident and Emergency Departments.

    The 5*3*5 rule is not intended only for neurologists, it empowers non-neurologist's to accurately diagnose the cause of weakness in the upper limb. I have taught the rule to medical students in Australia, Rwanda and Fiji, to postgraduate physician trainees and osteopaths who have all found it useful.

    1. Welsby PD. Have guidelines lost their way? Postgrad Med J 2019; 95(1127): 469.

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.