Table 1

Characteristics of included studies

StudyCountry and languageDesignPatientsInterventionsOutcomesSummary of results
Goertz et al 200630 USA; EnglishRCT100 patients, aged 18–50 with acute pain syndrome (acupuncture group n=50; conventional group n=50)Auricular acupuncture at bilateral cingulate gyrus (143 F) and thalamic nucleus (138 F) plus standard treatment vs conventional ED management1) Pain (NRS)
2) ED prescription and medication use
Significantly more pain reduction in the acupuncture group immediately after treatment but no significant difference at 24 hours follow-up.
No significant difference in medication use or prescription between groups
Harkin et al 200731 Australia; EnglishRCT45 patients with pain/nausea
(acupuncture group n=32; conventional group n=13)
Acupuncture at LI4 and LR3 and other acupuncture points vs conventional ED managements1) Pain (VAS)
2) Physiological parameters, for example, HR
4) Perceived treatment effectiveness
5) Willingness to have the same treatment
Significant pain reduction was seen in both groups after treatment, but the difference between groups was not significant. Significant reduction in SBP and DBP was seen in both groups. No significant difference in ED LOS, perceived treatment effectiveness, or willingness to have the same treatment, was seen between groups
Yang et al 201232 China;
RCT74 patients with acute pharyngitis (acupuncture group n=38; conventional group n=36)Balance acupuncture at bilateral Yantong with manual manipulation vs sham acupuncturePain (VAS)Balance acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture in relieving sore throat at 1 min after treatment (P<0.05). A significantly higher ‘cure and markedly effective’ rate was seen in the acupuncture group (44.4% vs 10.5%)
Liang et al 201433 China; ChineseRCT68 patients with hypertension (acupuncture group n=34; conventional group n=34)Balance acupuncture at Jiangya and Toutong vs sublingual captopril 25 mgSBP and DBP before and 10, 30, 60 and 120 min after treatmentBoth groups showed significant reduction in blood pressures after treatment but there was no significant difference between the groups
Zhang et al 201534 China; ChineseRCT64 patients in cardiac arrest (acupuncture group n=28; conventional group n=31)Balance acupuncture at GV26 plus standard CPR vs standard CPR1) ROSC rate
2) Survival rate
3) Time to ROSC (min)
4) Adverse effects
Significantly higher ROSC rate in the acupuncture group (67.9% vs 29.0%, P=0.003) but no difference in the survival rate. Time to ROSC was significantly shorter in the acupuncture group
Mohamed et al 201635 Tunisia;
RCT300 patients with acute onset moderate to severe pain
(acupuncture group n=150; conventional group n=150)
Acupuncture at predetermined points for each condition, according to the selection protocol vs IV titrated morphine, with a maximum dose of 15 mg1) Pain (VAS or NRS)
2) Pain resolution time (min)
3) The occurrence of short-term adverse effects
Success rate was significantly different between groups (92% in the acupuncture group vs 78% in the morphine group, P<0.001). Resolution time was 16±8 min in the acupuncture group vs 28±14 min in the morphine group (P<0.005). Significantly fewer adverse effects were seen in the acupuncture group (2.6% vs 56.6%, P<0.001)
  • ED, emergency department; CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation; DBP, diastolic blood pressure; HR, heart rate; IV, intravenous; LOS, length of stay; NRS, numerical rating scale; ROSC, return of spontaneous circulation; SBP, systolic blood pressure; VAS, visual analogue scale.