Objective: The aim of this study was to critically assess whether acupuncture therapy reduces vasomotor menopausal symptoms and to evaluate the adverse effects of acupuncture therapy on the basis of the results of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Methods: Nineteen electronic databases, including English, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese databases, were systematically searched for RCTs in which acupuncture was used to reduce vasomotor menopausal symptoms before July 2008. There were no language restrictions. The methodological quality of the eligible studies was assessed using the categories provided by the Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Review Group.
Results: Eleven studies, which included a total of 764 individual cases, were systematically reviewed. The methodological quality of the trials varied substantially. Six trials compared acupuncture treatment to sham or placebo acupuncture. Only one study using a nonpenetrating placebo needle found a significant difference in the severity outcomes of hot flashes between groups (mean difference, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.05-0.91). Five studies reported a reduced frequency of hot flashes within groups; however, none found a significant difference between groups. An analysis of the outcomes of the trials that compared acupuncture with hormone therapy or oryzanol for reducing vasomotor symptoms showed that acupuncture was superior. Three RCTs reported minimal acupuncture-related adverse events.
Conclusions: There is no evidence from RCTs that acupuncture is an effective treatment in comparison to sham acupuncture for reducing menopausal hot flashes. Some studies have shown that acupuncture therapies are better than hormone therapy for reducing vasomotor symptoms. However, the number of RCTs compared with a nonpenetrating placebo control needle or hormone therapy was too small, and the methodological quality of some of the RCTs was poor. Further evaluation of the effects of acupuncture on vasomotor menopausal symptoms based on a well-controlled placebo trial is therefore warranted.