Can perioperative acupuncture reduce the pain and vomiting experienced after tonsillectomy? A meta-analysis

Laryngoscope. 2016 Mar;126(3):608-15. doi: 10.1002/lary.25721. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Objectives: Acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain, nausea, and vomiting. However, its use alongside surgical interventions remains a novel practice, despite the increasing applications of alternative medicine. The goal of this meta-analysis was to perform a systematic review of the literature addressing the effect of acupuncture on postoperative pain, nausea, and vomiting following tonsillectomy.

Data sources: MEDLINE, SCOPUS, and Cochrane database.

Methods: Two authors independently searched the databases from the inception of article collection until June 2015. We included 1) analysis studies that compared groups of patients who had received perioperative acupuncture (acupuncture groups) with those who had received a pain control agent or sham treatment (control group); and 2) analysis studies in which the outcomes of interest were postoperative pain intensity, rescue analgesic consumption, or nausea and vomiting.

Results: The pain score reported by patients during the first 48 hours and the postoperative need for analgesics were significantly lower in the acupuncture group versus the control group. Additionally, the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting was significantly lower in the acupuncture group than in the control group. No major adverse effects of perioperative acupuncture were reported in the enrolled studies.

Conclusion: Perioperative acupuncture may provide pain relief without side effects in patients undergoing tonsillectomy. However, there were high levels of heterogeneity in several of the measured parameters; thus, the efficacy of acupuncture cannot be considered to have been evaluated sufficiently. For this reason, additional large well-designed trials are required to further support the results of this study.

Level of evidence: NA. Laryngoscope, 126:608-615, 2016.

Keywords: Acupuncture; analgesics; meta-analysis; nausea; pain; systematic review; tonsillectomy; vomiting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Perioperative Care / methods
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / prevention & control
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / therapy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tonsillectomy / adverse effects*
  • Tonsillectomy / methods
  • Vomiting / prevention & control
  • Vomiting / therapy*