Background: Complementary traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been used to treat patients with cerebral palsy (CP). However, large-scale surveys examining its use in the treatment of CP and associated disorders are lacking.
Methods: We enrolled 11,218 patients ≤ 18 years of age with CP in the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database from 1995 to 2011. Patients were categorized as TCM users (n = 6,997; 62.37%) and non-TCM users (n = 4,221; 37.63%) based on the inclusion of TCM in their treatment plan.
Results: Children with higher proportions of complementary TCM use were male, younger, and lived in urbanized areas. Most TCM users (n = 5332, 76.2%) visited TCM outpatient departments more than 20 times per year. In both groups, the three most common reasons for clinical visits were problems of the nervous system, respiratory system, and digestive system. Acupuncture was commonly used in problems of injury, musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, and nervous system. Chinese herbal medicine was used to improve the primary symptoms of CP in patients, as well as its associated disorders. The incidence rate ratios in allergic rhinitis, dyspepsia, menstrual disorders, and musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases among TCM users were significantly higher than non-TCM users. Although patients receiving complementary TCM therapies had higher medical expenditure for utilizing outpatient clinical consultations, their medical costs for visiting ER and hospitalization were significantly lower than that of non-TCM user within one year of the diagnosis of CP.
Conclusion: This study was a large-scale survey to characterize patterns of complementary TCM use among children with CP. The complementary use of TCM in children with CP was considerably high. Future clinical trials and basic researches can be developed based on the findings of this study.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Cerebral palsy; Epidemiology; Medical expenditure; National health insurance research database; Rehabilitation; Traditional Chinese medicine.