Background Patients with gastrointestinal cancers often suffer from malnutrition and cachexia caused by inflammatory processes due to malignancy and therapeutic intervention. Evaluation of nutritional status and well-being of patients is essential to prevent or slow down the progression of cachexia. In addition, acupuncture as a complementary intervention may help reduce cachexia and unintentional weight loss.
Methods Seven patients with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract enrolled in this pilot study were provided with eight acupuncture sessions in addition to their regular treatment schedule. Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) measurements were taken at every other acupuncture session to evaluate the body composition of patients. BIA is a fast, inexpensive and non-invasive method for evaluating fluid, fat and muscle mass distribution which correlates with nutritional status.
Results All patients enrolled in the pilot study completed the acupuncture intervention and BIA measurements. The average weight loss and reduction in body weight was 1.3%, which is less than the average weight loss of 5% reported in the literature. Both phase angle and fat-free mass decreased in patients, indicating a worsening of the condition. However, a shift from intracellular to extracellular fluid was not observed, which is usually associated with a loss of cell integrity.
Conclusions This pilot study indicates that patients tolerate acupuncture treatments well. The BIA results should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size. A larger randomised placebo-controlled study is currently being conducted to further investigate the influence of acupuncture and to provide insights into BIA as a reliable tool for evaluating body composition in patients with gastrointestinal cancers.
- COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE
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