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News

Acupuncture in IBS is primarily a placebo response

There are only small differences between acupuncture and sham acupuncture in patients with IBS, however, the placebo response may be predicted by high coping capacity, and low sleep quality, finds May's issue of Gut.

News image

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There are occasional positive reports on the efficacy of acupuncture on functions of the gastrointestinal tract.

However, there is no conclusive evidence that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Dr Schneider and colleagues randomly assigned 43 patients with IBS according to the Rome II criteria.

In Group 1, 22 patients received acupuncture, and 21 received sham acupuncture, using the so-called "Streitberger needle".

Treatment duration was 10 sessions with an average of two acupuncture sessions per week.

The improved effect was partially reversed 3 months later
Gut

The primary end point was improvement in quality of life using the functional digestive diseases quality of life questionnaire.

The researchers also used a general quality of life questionnaire, the Short-Form 36, compared with baseline assessments.

The team repeated quality of life measurements were 3 months after treatment.

Both the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups improved significantly in global quality of life.

This improvement was assessed by the functional digestive diseases quality of life questionnaire.

The team noted that at the end of treatment, there were no differences between the groups.

The Short-Form 36 was insensitive to these changes, except for pain.

The researchers observed that this effect was partially reversed 3 months later.

Post hoc comparison of responders and non-responders in both groups combined revealed a significant prediction of the placebo response.

The researchers noted that the prediction was made by 2 subscales of the functional digestive diseases quality of life questionnaire, including sleep, and coping.

Dr Schneider's team commented, “Acupuncture in IBS is primarily a placebo response.”

“Based on the small differences found between the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups, a study including 566 patients would be necessary to prove the efficacy of acupuncture over sham acupuncture.”

“The placebo response may be predicted by high coping capacity, and low sleep quality in individual patients.”

Gut 2006: 55: 649-54
28 April 2006

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