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J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Apr;16(4):473-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0601.

Medicinal systems of complementary and alternative medicine: a cross-sectional survey at a pediatric emergency department.

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Department of Pediatric Oncology and Haematology, University Children's Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany.



The purpose of this study was to find out which experiences adults are making while treating children with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in German-speaking Switzerland.


A cross-sectional survey was performed on adults accompanying the children presenting to an urban, tertiary pediatric emergency department in Zurich; 71% of the distributed questionnaires (1143 of 1600) could be used for data analysis. The respondents were asked about their experiences while treating the child with CAM and--for comparison reasons--with conventional medicine (CM).


The respondents perceived the effectiveness of CAM therapies in general to be inferior to that of CM, although 49% of all respondents stated that CAM therapies were more effective than CM in certain cases/against certain diseases and 13% that CAM therapies were as effective as CM. Higher frequency of use and lower compliance were observed in the case of CAM, relatively to CM. Respondents described the direct costs for the patient of both types of medicine to be comparable. Ninety-three percent (93%) of the respondents experienced no side-effects with CAM therapies, whereas only 52% of the respondents stated the same about CM therapies; the observed side-effects of CAM were weaker than those of CM. Homeopathy was the most frequently used form of CAM (77% of all CAM users), followed by herbal medicine (64%), anthroposophic medicine (24%), Traditional Chinese Medicine (13%), Ayurveda (5%), and others (34%).


From the respondents' point of view, the most marked difference between CAM- and CM therapies concerns the frequency and intensity of side-effects, which were markedly higher in the latter case. The respondents made use of a wide variety of CAM therapies.

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