Intraoperative acupuncture for posttonsillectomy pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Laryngoscope. 2015 Aug;125(8):1972-8. doi: 10.1002/lary.25252. Epub 2015 Apr 7.


Objectives/hypothesis: To evaluate the effect of intraoperative acupuncture on posttonsillectomy pain in the pediatric population.

Study design: Prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

Methods: Patients aged 3 to 12 years undergoing tonsillectomy were recruited at a tertiary children's hospital between February 2011 and May 2012. Participants were block-randomized to receive acupuncture or sham acupuncture during anesthesia for tonsillectomy. Surgeons, staff, and parents were blinded from treatment. Tonsillectomy was performed by one of two surgeons using a standard technique (monopolar cautery), and a single anesthetic protocol was followed. Study endpoints included time spent in the postanesthesia care unit, the amount of opioids administered in the perioperative period, and pain measures and presence of nausea/vomiting from postoperative home surveys.

Results: Fifty-nine children aged 3 to 12 years were randomized to receive acupuncture (n = 30) or sham acupuncture (n = 29). No significant demographic differences were noted between the two cohorts. Perioperative data were recorded for all patients; 73% of patients later returned home surveys. There were no significant differences in the amount of opioid medications administered or total postanesthesia care unit time between the two cohorts. Home surveys of patients but not of parents revealed significant improvements in pain control in the acupuncture treatment-group postoperatively (P = 0.0065 and 0.051, respectively), and oral intake improved significantly earlier in the acupuncture treatment group (P = 0.01). No adverse effects of acupuncture were reported.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that intraoperative acupuncture is feasible, well tolerated, and results in improved pain and earlier return of diet postoperatively.

Level of evidence: 1b.

Keywords: Acupuncture; analgesia; pain; tonsillectomy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care / methods*
  • Male
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tonsillectomy / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome