Auricular acupuncture for postoperative pain control: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials

Anaesthesia. 2008 Dec;63(12):1343-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2008.05632.x.


The number of publications on the peri-operative use of auricular acupuncture has rapidly increased within the last decade. The aim was to evaluate clinical evidence on the efficacy of auricular acupuncture for postoperative pain control. Electronic databases: Medline, MedPilot, DARE, Clinical Resource, Scopus and Biological Abstracts were searched from their inception to September 2007. All randomised clinical trials on the treatment of postoperative pain with auricular acupuncture were considered and their quality was evaluated using the Jadad scale. Pain intensity and analgesic requirements were defined as the primary outcome measures. Of 23 articles, nine fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Meta-analytic approach was not possible because of the heterogeneity of the primary studies. In eight of the trials, auricular acupuncture was superior to control conditions. Seven randomised clinical trials scored three or more points on the Jadad scale but none of them reached the maximum of 5 points. The evidence that auricular acupuncture reduces postoperative pain is promising but not compelling.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture, Ear*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome