Background: This systematic review aimed at summarizing and evaluating the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using acupuncture to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), specifically focusing on ovulation rate, menstrual rate, and related hormones.
Methods: Fifteen databases were searched electronically through February 2016. Our review included RCTs of women with PCOS; these RCTs compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture, medication, or no treatment. Two reviewers independently extracted data. Data were pooled and expressed as mean differences (MDs) for continuous outcomes and risk ratios for dichotomous outcomes, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using a random-effects model.
Results: We found a low level of evidence that acupuncture is more likely to improve ovulation rate (MD 0.35, 95% CI: 0.14-0.56) and menstruation rate (MD 0.50, 95% CI: 0.32-0.68) compared with no acupuncture. We found statistically significant pooled benefits of acupuncture treatment as an adjunct to medication in luteinizing hormone (LH), LH/follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) ratio, testosterone, fasting insulin, and pregnancy rates, but the level of evidence was low/very low.
Conclusion: There is limited evidence to judge the efficacy and safety of acupuncture on key reproductive outcomes in women with PCOS. Large-scale, long-term RCTs with rigorous methodological input are needed.