Objective: To assess the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) children.
Methods: A literature search was conducted to retrieve randomized cotrolled clinical trials of acupuncture in treating ADHD covering the period of the years of establishment of the databases to January 2014 from database of CBM, CNKI, PubMed, Cochrane Library by using key words "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder" "hyperactivity""minimal brain dysfunction" "acupuncture". Two independent researchers extracted data from located articles in a pre-defined structured way, and consulted the third researcher if necessary.
Results: Thirteen original trials including 1 304 cases of children with ADHD were obtained in this study according to our included criteria and excluded criteria. In these trials, acupuncture intervention alone, or acupuncture plus pharmacotherapy (methylphenidate, haloperidol) or acupuncture plus behavioral therapy were compared with simple pharmacotherapy or behavioral therapy alone. Results of Meta-analysis indicated that the total effective rate and Conners' index of hyperactivity (CIH) score-reduction rate in the acupuncture group were significantly superior to those of the other treatment groups [OR = 2.22, 95% CI (1.65, 3.00), Z = 5.22, P < 0.00001] [SMD = -0.94, 95% CI (-1.41, -0.47), Z = 3.89, P < 0.0001]. Acupuncture treatment is more effective than haloperidol in reducing the score of Conners' Rating Scale for ADHD [SMD = -7.28, 95% CI (-8.32, -6.23), Z = 13.62, P < 0.00001]. Acupuncture is similarly effective as Methylphenidate (Ritalin) in improving the Chinese medicine syndrome (liver-kidney yin hypoactivity) of children with ADHD [SMD = -1.14, 95% CI (-2.53, 0.25), Z = 1.60, P = 0.11]. Less severe adverse effects were reported with acupuncture therapy than the pharmacotherapy (poor appetite, dry mouth, nausea and constipation). These effects were not likely due to publication bias (approximately symmetry funnel plot, Egger's test P > 0.1).
Conclusion: Acupuncture is an effective and safe therapy in treating ADHD, combined administration of acupuncture and pharmacotherapy or behavioral therapy is more effective than the pharmacotherapy or behavioral therapy alone. However, more rigorously designed and high-quality RCTs are needed to confirm the above conclusion.