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Acupunct Med. 2009 Sep;27(3):109-13. doi: 10.1136/aim.2009.000935.

Group acupuncture to relieve radiation induced xerostomia: a feasibility study.

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  • 1Brighton & Sussex University Hospital Trust, Brighton, East Sussex, UK.



a distressing complication of radiotherapy treatment for head and neck cancer is xerostomia (chronic oral dryness). Xerostomia is difficult to treat conventionally but there are reports that acupuncture can help. We conducted a feasibility study to examine the acceptability of a standardised group acupuncture technique and adherence to group sessions, together with acceptability of the objective and subjective measurements of xerostomia.


12 males with established radiation induced xerostomia were treated in three groups of four. Each received eight weekly sessions of acupuncture using four bilateral acupuncture points (Salivary Gland 2; Modified Point Zero; Shen Men and one point in the distal radial aspect of each index finger (LI1)). Sialometry and quality of life assessments were performed at baseline and at the end of treatment. A semi-structured interview was conducted a week after completing the intervention.


adherence to and acceptability of the treatment and assessments was 100%. There were objective increases in the amounts of saliva produced for 6/12 patients post intervention and the majority also reported subjective improvements. Mean quality of life scores for domains related to salivation and xerostomia also showed improvement. At baseline 92% (11/12) patients reported experiencing a dry mouth "quite a bit/very much" as compared to 42% (5/12) after the treatment. Qualitative data revealed that the patients enjoyed the sessions.


the pilot study shows that a standardised group technique is deliverable and effective. The tools for objective and subjective assessment are appropriate and acceptable. Further examination in a randomised trial is now warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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