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Characteristics of acupuncture treatment associated with outcome: an individual patient meta-analysis of 17,922 patients with chronic pain in randomised controlled trials

Characteristics of acupuncture treatment associated with outcome: an individual patient meta-analysis of 17,922 patients with chronic pain in randomised controlled trials
Characteristics of acupuncture treatment associated with outcome: an individual patient meta-analysis of 17,922 patients with chronic pain in randomised controlled trials
Background: Recent evidence shows that acupuncture is effective for chronic pain. However we do not know whether there are characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists that are associated with better or worse outcomes.

Methods: An existing dataset, developed by the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, included 29 trials of acupuncture for chronic pain with individual data involving 17,922 patients. The available data on characteristics of acupuncture included style of acupuncture, point prescription, location of needles, use of electrical stimulation and moxibustion, number, frequency and duration of sessions, number of needles used and acupuncturist experience. We used random-effects meta-regression to test the effect of each characteristic on the main effect estimate of pain. Where sufficient patient-level data were available, we conducted patient-level analyses.

Results: When comparing acupuncture to sham controls, there was little evidence that the effects of acupuncture on pain were modified by any of the acupuncture characteristics evaluated, including style of acupuncture, the number or placement of needles, the number, frequency or duration of sessions, patient-practitioner interactions and the experience of the acupuncturist. When comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, there was little evidence that these characteristics modified the effect of acupuncture, except better pain outcomes were observed when more needles were used (p=0.010) and, from patient level analysis involving a sub-set of five trials, when a higher number of acupuncture treatment sessions were provided (p<0.001).

Conclusion: There was little evidence that different characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists modified the effect of treatment on pain outcomes. Increased number of needles and more sessions appear to be associated with better outcomes when comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, suggesting that dose is important. Potential confounders include differences in control group and sample size between trials. Trials to evaluate potentially small differences in outcome associated with different acupuncture characteristics are likely to require large sample sizes.
1932-6203
e77438
MacPherson, H.
3ffae3d6-eb79-4f92-9025-86ad9de2785b
Maschino, A.C.
1cf856c0-d3b4-40b0-8a56-291fbfd49711
Lewith, G.
0fc483fa-f17b-47c5-94d9-5c15e65a7625
Foster, N.E.
de654772-b75f-444b-a6db-55e990aabb3b
Witt, C.
fcdc4b6c-d4aa-4bd8-b6ee-d4247085e801
Vickers, A.J.
be245341-e8bc-48ae-b094-6713af23e14b
on behalf of the Acupuncture Trialists' Collaboration
MacPherson, H.
3ffae3d6-eb79-4f92-9025-86ad9de2785b
Maschino, A.C.
1cf856c0-d3b4-40b0-8a56-291fbfd49711
Lewith, G.
0fc483fa-f17b-47c5-94d9-5c15e65a7625
Foster, N.E.
de654772-b75f-444b-a6db-55e990aabb3b
Witt, C.
fcdc4b6c-d4aa-4bd8-b6ee-d4247085e801
Vickers, A.J.
be245341-e8bc-48ae-b094-6713af23e14b

MacPherson, H., Maschino, A.C., Lewith, G., Foster, N.E., Witt, C. and Vickers, A.J. , on behalf of the Acupuncture Trialists' Collaboration (2013) Characteristics of acupuncture treatment associated with outcome: an individual patient meta-analysis of 17,922 patients with chronic pain in randomised controlled trials. PLoS ONE, 8 (10), e77438. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077438).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background: Recent evidence shows that acupuncture is effective for chronic pain. However we do not know whether there are characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists that are associated with better or worse outcomes.

Methods: An existing dataset, developed by the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, included 29 trials of acupuncture for chronic pain with individual data involving 17,922 patients. The available data on characteristics of acupuncture included style of acupuncture, point prescription, location of needles, use of electrical stimulation and moxibustion, number, frequency and duration of sessions, number of needles used and acupuncturist experience. We used random-effects meta-regression to test the effect of each characteristic on the main effect estimate of pain. Where sufficient patient-level data were available, we conducted patient-level analyses.

Results: When comparing acupuncture to sham controls, there was little evidence that the effects of acupuncture on pain were modified by any of the acupuncture characteristics evaluated, including style of acupuncture, the number or placement of needles, the number, frequency or duration of sessions, patient-practitioner interactions and the experience of the acupuncturist. When comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, there was little evidence that these characteristics modified the effect of acupuncture, except better pain outcomes were observed when more needles were used (p=0.010) and, from patient level analysis involving a sub-set of five trials, when a higher number of acupuncture treatment sessions were provided (p<0.001).

Conclusion: There was little evidence that different characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists modified the effect of treatment on pain outcomes. Increased number of needles and more sessions appear to be associated with better outcomes when comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, suggesting that dose is important. Potential confounders include differences in control group and sample size between trials. Trials to evaluate potentially small differences in outcome associated with different acupuncture characteristics are likely to require large sample sizes.

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Published date: 11 October 2013
Organisations: Primary Care & Population Sciences

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 359024
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/359024
ISSN: 1932-6203
PURE UUID: d9519d7f-188b-4c02-8477-a6e041cf3ceb

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Date deposited: 18 Oct 2013 13:24
Last modified: 19 Jul 2019 21:24

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