Background: Acupuncture is used to treat chronic functional constipation (CFC) in China, despite limited evidence. We aim to assess the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in managing CFC.
Methods: A multicenter randomized controlled trial was performed involving 684 patients with CFC; the patients were randomly allocated to receive He acupuncture (n = 172), Shu-mu acupuncture (n = 171), He-shu-mu acupuncture (n = 171), or oral administration of mosapride (n = 170). Sixteen sessions of acupuncture were given in the treatment duration of 4 weeks. The primary outcome was the change in spontaneous bowel movements (SBMs) at week 4 (at the end of treatment) compared to baseline. The secondary outcomes included stool consistency (Bristol scale), the degree of straining during defecation, and adverse events.
Key results: The SBMs increased in all the four groups at week 4, and the magnitude of increase was equivalent in the four groups (He acupuncture, 2.7 [95% CI, 2.3-3.1]; Shu-mu acupuncture, 2.7 [95% CI, 2.3-3.0]; He-shu-mu acupuncture, 2.2 [95% CI, 1.9-2.5]; and mosapride, 2.4 [95% CI, 2.0-2.9]; P = .226). However, the change in SBMs at week 8 was significantly smaller in mosapride group (1.4 [95% CI, 1.0-1.8]) than the three acupuncture groups (2.4 [95% CI, 2.1-2.7], 2.3 [95% CI, 1.9-2.7], 2.1 [95% CI, 1.7-2.5] in He, Shu-mu, and He-shu-mu group, respectively, P = .005).
Conclusions & interferences: The three acupuncture treatments were as effective as mosapride in improving stool frequency and stool consistency in CFC, but the magnitude of the treatment effect is unknown due to the lack of sham acupuncture control.
Keywords: acupuncture; functional constipation; randomized controlled trial.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.