Study objective: To assess emergency department patients' use of alternative therapies.
Methods: This study used a cross-sectional observational survey of a convenience sample of ED patients. A trained research assistant administered a written questionnaire asking patients about alternative therapies.
Results: Of the 139 patients surveyed, 78 (56%) had tried alternative therapies in the past, 68 (87%) of whom believed that they were effective. The most frequently tried alternative therapies were massage therapy (31%), chiropractic (30%), herbs (24%), meditation (19%), and acupuncture (15%). Most patients (70%) who tried alternative therapies did not inform their physicians of such practice.
Conclusion: Most ED patients in our sample had tried alternative therapies and among these patients, most did not inform their physicians. Herbal therapy in particular had been tried by about 1 in 4 patients. Emergency physicians should routinely question their patients regarding the use of alternative therapies, particularly herbal preparations, which may cause adverse effects.