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PLoS One. 2016 Dec 14;11(12):e0168123. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0168123. eCollection 2016.

Publication Trends in Acupuncture Research: A 20-Year Bibliometric Analysis Based on PubMed.

Author information

1
Sleep Center, Air Force General Hospital, PLA, Beijing, China.
2
Division of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Biotechnology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States of America.
3
IBM, Software Development Lab, Littleton, MA, United States of America.
4
Department of Health Care Studies & Daemen College Physical Therapy Wound Care Clinic Daemen College, Amherst, NY, United States of America.
5
Reference & Education Services, Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States of America.
6
Center for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China.
7
Division of Preventive Medicine, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, United States of America; Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States of America.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Acupuncture has become popular and widely practiced in many countries around the world. Despite the large amount of acupuncture-related literature that has been published, broader trends in the prevalence and scope of acupuncture research remain underexplored. The current study quantitatively analyzes trends in acupuncture research publications in the past 20 years.

METHODS:

A bibliometric approach was used to search PubMed for all acupuncture-related research articles including clinical and animal studies. Inclusion criteria were articles published between 1995 and 2014 with sufficient information for bibliometric analyses. Rates and patterns of acupuncture publication within the 20 year observational period were estimated, and compared with broader publication rates in biomedicine. Identified eligible publications were further analyzed with respect to study type/design, clinical condition addressed, country of origin, and journal impact factor.

RESULTS:

A total of 13,320 acupuncture-related publications were identified using our search strategy and eligibility criteria. Regression analyses indicated an exponential growth in publications over the past two decades, with a mean annual growth rate of 10.7%. This compares to a mean annual growth rate of 4.5% in biomedicine. A striking trend was an observed increase in the proportion of randomized clinical trials (RCTs), from 7.4% in 1995 to 20.3% in 2014, exceeding the 4.5% proportional growth of RCTs in biomedicine. Over the 20 year period, pain was consistently the most common focus of acupuncture research (37.9% of publications). Other top rankings with respect to medical focus were arthritis, neoplasms/cancer, pregnancy or labor, mood disorders, stroke, nausea/vomiting, sleep, and paralysis/palsy. Acupuncture research was conducted in 60 countries, with the top 3 contributors being China (47.4%), United States (17.5%), and United Kingdom (8.2%). Retrieved articles were published mostly in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) journals with impact factors ranging between 0.7 and 2.8 in the top 20 journals, followed by journals specializing in neuroscience, pain, anesthesia/analgesia, internal medicine and comprehensive fields.

CONCLUSION:

Acupuncture research has grown markedly in the past two decades, with a 2-fold higher growth rate than for biomedical research overall. Both the increases in the proportion of RCTs and the impact factor of journals support that the quality of published research has improved. While pain was a consistently dominant research focus, other topics gained more attention during this time period. These findings provide a context for analyzing strengths and gaps in the current state of acupuncture research, and for informing a comprehensive strategy for further advancing the field.

PMID:
27973611
PMCID:
PMC5156436
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0168123
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

We have the following interests: Ming Dong is employed by IBM. There are no patents, products in development or marketed products to declare. This does not alter our adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials, as detailed online in the guide for authors.

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