Acupuncture safe, feasible in irritable bowel syndrome

30 Jan 2023
Acupuncture safe, feasible in irritable bowel syndrome

Acupuncture appears to yield significant improvements in irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhoea (IBS-D), a study has found.

In the study, researchers tested the feasibility of using US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–recommended endpoints to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of IBS.

A total of 90 patients with IBS-D (mean age 34.5 years, 60.0 percent men) were randomized to receive treatment with acupuncture either at specific acupoints (SA; n=30) or nonspecific acupoints (NSA; n=30) or sham acupuncture (n=30). All acupuncture interventions were conducted in 12 30-minute sessions over 4 consecutive weeks at three sessions per week (ideally every other day).

The primary endpoint was the week-4 response rate, defined as the proportion of patients whose worst abdominal pain score (range, 0–10, with 0 indicating no pain and 10 indicating unbearable severe pain) dropped by at least 30 percent and the number of type 6 or 7 stool days decreased by at least 50 percent.

Response rates at week 4 were 46.7 percent (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 28.8–65.4) in the SA group, 46.7 percent (95 percent CI, 28.8–65.4) in the NSA group, and 26.7 percent (95 percent CI, 13.0–46.2) in the sham group, with no significant between-group differences (p=0.18).

The response rates for adequate relief at week 4 were 64.3 percent (95 percent CI, 44.1–80.7) in the SA group, 62.1 percent (95 percent CI, 42.4–78.7) in the NSA group, and 55.2 percent (95 percent CI, 36.0–73.0) in the sham group (p=0.76).

Two patients in the SA group (6.7 percent) and three in the NSA or sham group (10 percent) experienced adverse events.

The present data suggest that acupuncture is feasible and safe. A larger, sufficiently powered trial is needed to accurately assess the efficacy of acupuncture in IBS.

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