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Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Jun;104(6):1489-97. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.156.

A treatment trial of acupuncture in IBS patients.

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The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Rabb/Rose 1, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



This study aimed to compare the effects of true and sham acupuncture in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


A total of 230 adult IBS patients (75 % females, average age: 38.4 years) were randomly assigned to 3 weeks of true or sham acupuncture (6 treatments) after a 3-week "run-in" with sham acupuncture in an "augmented" or "limited" patient-practitioner interaction. A third arm of the study included a waitlist control group. The primary outcome was the IBS Global Improvement Scale (IBS-GIS) (range: 1 - 7); secondary outcomes included the IBS Symptom Severity Scale (IBS-SSS), the IBS Adequate Relief (IBS-AR), and the IBS Quality of Life (IBS-QOL).


Although there was no statistically significant difference between acupuncture and sham acupuncture on the IBS-GIS (41 vs. 32 % , P = 0.25), both groups improved significantly compared with the waitlist control group (37 vs. 4 % , P = 0.001). Similarly, small differences that were not statistically significant favored acupuncture over the other three outcomes: IBS-AR(59 vs. 57 % , P = 0.83), IBS-SSS (31 vs. 21 % , P = 0.18), and IBS-QOL (17 vs. 13 % , P = 0.56). Eliminating responders during the run-in period did not substantively change the results. Side effects were generally mild and only slightly greater in the acupuncture group.


This study did not find evidence to support the superiority of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture in the treatment of IBS.

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