Article Text

Reporting characteristics and risk of bias in randomised controlled trials of acupuncture analgesia published in PubMed-listed journals
  1. Xiuxia Li1,2,
  2. Rong Wang3,4,
  3. Xiue Shi5,
  4. Zehao Chen6,
  5. Yuanqing Pan1,2,
  6. Xusheng Li4,
  7. Kehu Yang1,2
  1. 1 Evidence-Based Medicine Center, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
  2. 2 Key Laboratory of Evidence Based Medicine and Knowledge Translation of Gansu Province, Lanzhou, China
  3. 3 Gansu University of Chinese Medicine, Lanzhou, China
  4. 4 Department of Orthopedics, The General Hospital of PLA, Lanzhou, China
  5. 5 Rehabilitation Center of Gansu Province, Lanzhou, China
  6. 6 Clinical Science of Orthodontics, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
  1. Correspondence to Professor Kehu Yang, Lanzhou University, 199 Donggang West Road, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China; yangkh{at}


Background Acupuncture analgesia has been evaluated by a number of randomised controlled trials (RCTs); however, a systematic summary of reporting quality of RCTs in this specific field is lacking.

Objective To examine the reporting characteristics and risk of bias of RCTs of acupuncture analgesia indexed in the PubMed database.

Methods A PubMed search of RCTs of acupuncture analgesia was conducted through November 2015. The Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool was used to assess the risk of bias of each trial.

Results 206 articles were identified across 59 journals (impact factor 0.4–20), of which 56% of articles and 86% of journals were Science Citation Index (SCI)-indexed. Nearly half of the articles were published in China. The next most represented countries of origin were the UK (22%) and USA (21%). Of the included trials, postoperative pain was the most prevalent phenotype, and manual acupuncture was the most frequently applied type of stimulation (46%). A total of 12% of articles reported on analgesic mechanisms. The most frequently used acupuncture points were LI4, ST36, PC6, SP6 and Shenmen. The overwhelming majority of trials were considered to be at high risk of bias (84%). Furthermore, 79% of trials enrolled <50 participants per treatment arm.

Conclusions RCTs of acupuncture analgesia indexed in PubMed journals generally exhibited poor reporting of methodological and treatment details. Future studies should provide more information regarding clinical trial registration, blinding of participants (including sham procedures where applicable) and outcome assessors, as well as the training and qualification of acupuncturists.


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  • RW joint first author.

  • Contributors XL, RW, XL, and KY were responsible for the concept and design of the study. XL, RW, XS and ZC were responsible for data acquisition. XL, RW, XS, ZC analysed and interpreted the data in collaboration with YP, XL and KY. XL, RW and KY wrote the first draft of the article. All authors critically revised the article for important intellectual content and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (grant no. NSFC81373882). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NSFC.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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