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Manual acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment of nausea in patients with cancer in palliative care – a prospective, observational pilot study
  1. Elisabeth Nystrom, registered physiotherapist,
  2. Gunilla Ridderstrom, registered physiotherapist,
  3. Ann-Sofie Leffler, registered physiotherapist
  1. Advanced home health-care Solna Sundbyberg Solna, Sweden Section of Clinical Pain Research Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery Karolinska Institute University Hospital Solna, Stockholm Sweden
  1. Ann-Sofie.Leffler{at}


Background Good clinical evidence has been reported for the effect of PC6 acupuncture in preventing or attenuating postoperative and pregnancy related nausea. Our primary aim was to examine whether PC6 acupuncture during a period of chemotherapy could complement pharmacological treatment of nausea in cancer patients in the palliative stage of their disease.

Method We conducted a prospective observational pilot study to measure changes in nausea, and also explored the relationship between nausea, pain and constipation. Twelve patients suffering from nausea and four nausea free patients participated in the study. The nausea free patients were included because they had been troubled by nausea in a previous course of chemotherapy, despite medication with antiemetic drugs, and were about to start a new course of treatment. The patients rated their intensity of nausea, pain and constipation on a numerical rating scale before each of 10 treatment sessions with PC6 acupuncture over the course of three weeks, and at two follow ups during the following week.

Results Fifteen patients completed the study. Compared to before treatment, the patients scored a significantly reduced intensity of nausea before the last treatment session (P<0.01) and at the first follow up (P<0.05). Three out of four nausea free patients were still nausea free before the last treatment session with acupuncture. No relationship could be found between nausea, pain and constipation before, during or after the treatment period had finished.

Conclusion The study demonstrated that acupuncture treatment in cancer patients can be associated with a significantly reduced intensity of nausea during a period of chemotherapy in their final phase of life.

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