Objective: Acupuncture has traditionally been used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease in China and is increasingly applied in Western countries. The objective of this study was to investigate the efficacy of acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of active ulcerative colitis (UC).
Material and methods: In a prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trial 29 patients with mild to moderately active UC (mean age 37.8 +/- 12.0 years) were randomly assigned to receive either traditional acupuncture and moxa (TCM group, n = 15), or sham acupuncture consisting of superficial needling at non-acupuncture points (control group, CG, n = 14). All patients were treated in 10 sessions over a period of 5 weeks and followed-up for 16 weeks. The main outcome measure was the change in the Colitis Activity Index (CAI) after treatment; secondary outcome measures were changes in quality of life, general well-being and serum markers of inflammation.
Results: In the TCM group, the CAI decreased from 8.0 (+/- 3.7) to 4.2 (+/- 2.4) points and in the control group from 6.5 (+/- 3.4) to 4.8 (+/- 3.9) points (TCM versus CG: p = 0.048). In both groups these changes were associated with significant improvements in general well-being (TCM group: from 3.0 (+/- 1.8) to 1.8 (+/- 1.0); CG: from 3.2 (+/- 1.9) to 2.2 (+/- 1.7)) and quality of life (TCM group: from 146 (+/- 23) to 182 (+/- 18); CG: from 157 (+/- 20) to 183 (+/- 23)). No significant differences between the TCM and CG were found regarding these secondary outcome measures.
Conclusions: Differences in efficacy between traditional acupuncture and sham acupuncture were small and significant only for CAI as the main outcome measure. Both traditional and sham acupuncture seem to offer an additional therapeutic benefit in patients with mild to moderately active UC.