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Developing an acupuncture protocol for treating phantom limb pain: a Delphi consensus study
  1. Esmé G Trevelyan,
  2. Warren A Turner,
  3. Nicola Robinson
  1. Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Esmé Trevelyan, Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA, UK; trevelye{at}


Background Little is known about how a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach could be used to treat phantom limb pain (PLP). There is currently no standard acupuncture protocol in the literature to treat this syndrome.

Objectives To achieve consensus among a group of acupuncture practitioners on the pathology and recommended treatment of PLP and devise an acupuncture protocol for the treatment of this condition.

Methods A classical Delphi approach was used using two parallel online Delphi studies. One study focused on participants with past experience of treating PLP (TPLP, n=7) and the other on practitioners with no past experience (NTPLP, n=16). Two hypothetical case studies were provided and participants were asked for responses on how they would treat these patients. Three rounds were included. Participants were also invited to rate and comment on the finalised protocol. Round 1 data were analysed using content analysis. In subsequent rounds an a priori criterion for defining consensus was set at ≤1.75 IQR. A group median of 5–6 was considered to mean ‘agree’.

Results 19 participants completed all Delphi rounds (12 NTPLP, 7 TPLP). 108 NTPLP and 76 TPLP statements were generated and circulated in round 2; 53% of the NTPLP statements and 62% of the TPLP statements met consensus in round 2 and 45% of the NTPLP statements and 44% of the TPLP statements met consensus in round 3. Participants all agreed with the final protocol developed.

Conclusions The protocol developed does not claim to be best practice but provides a preliminary consensus from practitioners practising acupuncture for the treatment of PLP.


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