Objectives To investigate the effect of a standardised acupuncture on nausea and vomiting in children after tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy when possible placebo effects were precluded.
Methods A pragmatic, multicentre, double-blinded, randomised controlled trial. The study was conducted over 10 months in 2012–2013 at three ambulatory clinics. Two hundred and eighty-two children, age 1–11 years, American Society of Anesthesiologists grade ≤II, were included. To equalise expectancy effects, all parents were told that their child would receive acupuncture. However, children were randomly allocated to perioperative bilateral needling acupuncture at PC6, depth 7 mm, mean time 17 min (SD 5–45) during anaesthesia plus usual care, or to usual care only. The regional ethics committee approved this approach. Primary endpoints were nausea and vomiting 24 h postoperatively.
Results This study did not demonstrate any effect of acupuncture (95% CI) compared with standard care. The overall vomiting in the acupuncture and usual-care groups was 44.2% and 47.9%, respectively. Nausea was experienced by 31.7% in the acupuncture group and by 32.6% in the usual-care group. The test power was acceptable for comparisons of vomiting.
Conclusions The findings suggest that when controlling for possible placebo effects standardised PC6 acupuncture needling during anaesthesia without further stimulation of PC6 is not effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in children after tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy. Future studies should investigate acupuncture treatment which balances adequate dose and technique and a feasible, child-friendly acupuncture treatment.
Trial registration number ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01729052.
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