Purpose: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by airflow limitation and by both systemic and airway inflammation. In COPD, acupuncture has been shown to improve quality-of-life scores and decrease breathlessness; similar findings have also been reported after pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). The hypothesis of this study was that acupuncture in conjunction with pulmonary rehabilitation would improve COPD outcome measures compared to pulmonary rehabilitation alone.
Methods: The design was a randomized prospective study; all subjects had COPD. There were 19 controls, 25 who underwent PR, and 16 who had both acupuncture and PR. The primary outcome measure was a change in measures of systemic inflammation at the end of PR and at 3 month followup. Lung function, including maximum inspiratory pressure (PiMax), quality-of-life scores, functional capacity including steps taken, dyspnea scores, and exercise capacity, were secondary endpoints.
Results: After PR, both groups had significantly improved quality-of-life scores, reduced dyspnea scores, improved exercise capacity, and PiMax, but no change in measures of systemic inflammation compared with the controls. There were no differences in most of the outcome measures between the 2 treatment groups except that subjects who had both acupuncture and PR remained less breathless for a longer period.
Conclusion: The addition of acupuncture to PR did not add significant benefit in most of the outcomes measured.