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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 23;6(3):e14766. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014766.

Getting the grip on nonspecific treatment effects: emesis in patients randomized to acupuncture or sham compared to patients receiving standard care.

Author information

  • 1Division of Nursing Science, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden. anna.enblom@ki.se

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

It is not known whether or not delivering acupuncture triggers mechanisms cited as placebo and if acupuncture or sham reduces radiotherapy-induced emesis more than standard care.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Cancer patients receiving radiotherapy over abdominal/pelvic regions were randomized to verum (penetrating) acupuncture (n = 109; 99 provided data) in the alleged antiemetic acupuncture point PC6 or sham acupuncture (n = 106; 101 provided data) performed with a telescopic non-penetrating needle at a sham point 2-3 times/week during the whole radiotherapy period. The acupuncture cohort was compared to a reference cohort receiving standard care (n = 62; 62 provided data). The occurrence of emesis in each group was compared after a mean dose of 27 Gray. Nausea and vomiting were experienced during the preceding week by 37 and 8% in the verum acupuncture group, 38 and 7% in the sham acupuncture group and 63 and 15% in the standard care group, respectively. The lower occurrence of nausea in the acupuncture cohort (verum and sham) compared to patients receiving standard care (37% versus 63%, relative risk (RR) 0.6, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.5-0.8) was also true after adjustment for potential confounding factors for nausea (RR 0.8, CI 0.6 to 0.9). Nausea intensity was lower in the acupuncture cohort (78% no nausea, 13% a little, 8% moderate, 1% much) compared to the standard care cohort (52% no nausea, 32% a little, 15% moderate, 2% much) (p = 0.002). The acupuncture cohort expected antiemetic effects from their treatment (95%). Patients who expected nausea had increased risk for nausea compared to patients who expected low risk for nausea (RR 1.6; Cl 1.2-2.4).

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Patients treated with verum or sham acupuncture experienced less nausea and vomiting compared to patients receiving standard care, possibly through a general care effect or due to the high level of patient expectancy.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00621660.

PMID:
21448267
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3063156
Free PMC Article

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