Background/aim: Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in Western society, affecting around 15% of the population, especially young adults. The cause(s) of irritable bowel syndrome and effective treatment(s) have remained elusive. This study aimed at exploring the therapeutic value of acupuncture by comparing the responses of irritable bowel syndrome sufferers to true acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in a controlled double-blind study.
Methods: Twenty-five patients who fulfilled the Rome criteria (irritable bowel syndrome symptoms persisting for more than 1 year) comprised the final study population. They were recruited through a 'call for' bulletin sent to gastroenterologists practicing in the region of our medical center. True acupuncture was performed at LI-4 (colonic meridian, needle only) and sham acupuncture at BL-60 (urinary vesicle meridian, needle only). Patient assignment to one of the two groups was random.
Results: The effect of the first true acupuncture on overall symptoms and abdominal pain was a clear and significant improvement (p = 0.05). No comparable effect was seen in the second session.
Conclusions: Although the true acupuncture results were consistently better, no difference was found between the two groups in the overall statistical analysis. We could not show a therapeutic benefit of this treatment modality in irritable bowel syndrome.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel