Acupuncture treatment in gastrointestinal diseases: a systematic review

The purpose of this work was to assess the evidence for effectiveness of acupuncture treatment in gastrointestinal diseases.  A systematic review of the Medline-cited literature for clinical trials was performed up to May 2006. Controlled trials assessing acupuncture point stimulation for patients with gastrointestinal diseases were considered for inclusion.

The search identified 18 relevant trials meeting the inclusion criteria. Two irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trials, 1 Crohn's disease and 1 ulcerative colitis trial had a robust random controlled trial (RCT) design. In regard to other gastrointestinal disorders, study quality was poor.

In all trials, quality of life (QoL) improved significantly independently from the kind of acupuncture, real or sham.  Real acupuncture was significantly superior to sham acupuncture with regard to disease activity scores in the Crohn and Colitis trials.  Efficacy of acupuncture related to QoL in IBS may be explained by unspecific effects. This is the same for QoL in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), whereas specific acupuncture effects may be found in clinical scores.

Further trials for IBDs and in particular for all other gastrointestinal disorders would be necessary to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture treatment.  However, it must be discussed on what terms patients benefit when this harmless and obviously powerful therapy with regard to QoL is demystified by further placebo controlled trials. 


Source:  World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul 7;13(25):3417-24; Schneider A, Streitberger K, Joos S.; Department of General Practice and Health Services Research, University Medical Hospital Heidelberg, Vossstrasse 2, Heidelberg 69120, Germany

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