Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: 2-year follow-up of a randomised controlled trial

MacPherson H1, Tilbrook H1, Agbedjro D2, Buckley H1, Hewitt C1, Frost C3. Acupunct Med. 2016 Mar 15. pii: acupmed-2015-010854. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2015-010854. [Epub ahead of print]
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1Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK. 2Department of Biostatistics, Kings College London, London, UK. 3Department of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.


BACKGROUND: A recent randomised controlled trial (RCT) of acupuncture as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) demonstrated sustained benefits over a period of 12 months post-randomisation.

AIM: To extend the trial follow-up to evaluate the effects of acupuncture at 24 months post-randomisation.

METHODS: Patients in primary care with ongoing IBS were recruited to a two-arm pragmatic RCT of acupuncture for IBS. Participants were randomised to the offer of up to 10 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care (n=116 patients) or to continue with usual care alone (n=117). The primary outcome was the self-reported IBS symptom severity score (IBS SSS) measured at 24 months post-randomisation. Analysis was by intention-to-treat using an unstructured multivariate linear model incorporating all repeated measures.

RESULTS: The overall response rate was 61%. The adjusted difference in mean IBS SSS at 24 months was -18.28 (95% CI -40.95 to 4.40) in favour of the acupuncture arm. Differences at earlier time points estimated from the multivariate model were: -27.27 (-47.69 to -6.86) at 3 months; -23.69 (-45.17 to -2.21) at 6 months; -24.09 (-45.59 to -2.59) at 9 months; and -23.06 (-44.52 to -1.59) at 12 months.

CONCLUSIONS: There were no statistically significant differences between the acupuncture and usual care groups in IBS SSS at 24 months post-randomisation, and the point estimate for the mean difference was approximately 80% of the size of the statistically significant results seen at 6, 9 and 12 months.


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