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World J Gastroenterol. Jul 7, 2007; 13(25): 3417-3424
Published online Jul 7, 2007. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i25.3417
Acupuncture treatment in gastrointestinal diseases: A systematic review
Antonius Schneider, Konrad Streitberger, Stefanie Joos
Antonius Schneider, Stefanie Joos, University Hospital Heidelberg, Department of General Practice and Health Services Research, Germany
Konrad Streitberger, University Hospital Heidelberg, Department of Anaesthesiology, Germany
Author contributions: All authors contributed equally to the work.
Correspondence to: Dr. Antonius Schneider, Department of General Practice and Health Services Research, University Medical Hospital Heidelberg, Voβstrasse 2, Heidelberg 69120, Germany.
Telephone: +49-6221-564819 Fax: +49-6221-561972
Received: March 9, 2007
Revised: March 10, 2007
Accepted: March 12, 2007
Published online: July 7, 2007

The purpose of this work was to assess the evidence for effectiveness of acupuncture (AC) treatment in gastrointestinal diseases. A systematic review of the Medline-cited literature for clinical trials was performed up to May 2006. Controlled trials assessing acupuncture point stimulation for patients with gastrointestinal diseases were considered for inclusion. The search identified 18 relevant trials meeting the inclusion criteria. Two irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trials, 1 Crohn's disease and 1 colitis ulcerosa trial had a robust random controlled trial (RCT) design. In regard to other gastrointestinal disorders, study quality was poor. In all trials, quality of life (QoL) improved significantly independently from the kind of acupuncture, real or sham. Real AC was significantly superior to sham acupuncture with regard to disease activity scores in the Crohn and Colitis trials. Efficacy of acupuncture related to QoL in IBS may be explained by unspecific effects. This is the same for QoL in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), whereas specific acupuncture effects may be found in clinical scores. Further trials for IBDs and in particular for all other gastrointestinal disorders would be necessary to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture treatment. However, it must be discussed on what terms patients benefit when this harmless and obviously powerful therapy with regard to QoL is demystified by further placebo controlled trials.

Keywords: Irritable bowel syndrome, Inflammatory bowel disease, Gastrointestinal disease, Placebo, Acupuncture