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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:286048. doi: 10.1155/2013/286048. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

Acupuncture for Depression: Patterns of Diagnosis and Treatment within a Randomised Controlled Trial.

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Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK.



In a large randomised controlled trial of acupuncture, counselling, or usual care for depression, we document the acupuncture intervention and explore the relationship between traditional acupuncture diagnosis and outcome.


Patients who were continuing to experience depression were recruited from primary care to the ACUDep trial (n = 755). Practitioners documented for each patient the traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis, the points needled, and additional components of the treatment, such as lifestyle advice, as recommended by the STRICTA guidelines.


Over an 18-month period, 23 acupuncturists delivered 2741 treatments to 266 patients, an average of 10 sessions per patient. The primary and secondary zang fu syndromes were identified for 99% of patients. When combining primary and secondary diagnoses, there was a predominant Liver Qi Stagnation cluster (66% of patients) and a Spleen Deficiency cluster (34%). Practitioners sought de qi responses 96% of the time. Lifestyle advice was given to 66% of patients, most commonly dietary. When comparing patient outcomes, no significant differences were found between the two main syndrome clusters.


In this large-scale trial, our documentation of diagnosis and treatment provides a useful snapshot of common patterns that patients present with when continuing to experience depression after consulting in primary care.

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