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Acupunct Med. 2019 Aug;37(4):201-210. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011549. Epub 2019 Jul 4.

Invasive and non-invasive acupuncture techniques for pain management in neonates: a systematic review.

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1 Division of Neonatology, Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
2 Research Group for Paediatric Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM Research Center Graz (Acupuncture Research), Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
3 Department of Paediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
4 Centre for the Studies of Asphyxia and Resuscitation, Neonatal Research Unit, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



Neonatal pain is an extensive research field and there are many possibilities to treat pain in neonates. Acupuncture is one new and non-pharmacological option and a promising tool to reduce pain in neonates undergoing minor painful interventions during routine medical care.


This review summarises trials of acupuncture for pain reduction in neonates undergoing painful interventions during routine medical care.


MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, electronic clinical trials registry platforms and reference lists were systematically screened for trials from their dates of inception to February 2017 (English language database search).


Inclusion criteria were (1) preterm or term neonates, (2) acupuncture for painful medical interventions and (3) formal pain assessment as a primary or secondary study outcome. We included only randomised controlled trials.


Data were extracted using a standardised protocol and individual risk of bias was assessed.


The literature search revealed a total of 12 196 records. After application of inclusion criteria, five studies were included in this review. Two studies demonstrated significant pain reduction, one found equal outcomes in comparison to standard care, and two showed significantly higher pain scores with acupuncture alone.


The main limitation of the results is the heterogeneity across trials in acupuncture modality, acupuncture point selection, control groups and pain assessment (heterogeneity: I2=87%).


The results of this review suggest that acupuncture may have a positive pain-relieving effect in neonates. However, due to the low number of available high-quality trials and heterogeneity across the studies it is not possible to state clear recommendations.


acupuncture; heel lance; neonatology; pain management; systematic review

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