Different Acupuncture Therapies for Allergic Rhinitis: Overview of Systematic Reviews and Network Meta-Analysis

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 Apr 23;2020:8363027. doi: 10.1155/2020/8363027. eCollection 2020.


Objective: To evaluate the quality of methodologies used in previous systematic reviews (SRs) and compare efficacy of different acupuncture therapies for allergic rhinitis.

Methods: Seven electronic databases were searched for systematic reviews (SRs) performed on different acupuncture therapies for allergic rhinitis from inception to 15 November 2019. The AMSTAR2 instrument was employed to assess the methodological quality of included SRs. Eligible randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were selected from the included systematic reviews. We also included recent RCTs published by 15 November 2019. Cochrane risk of bias tool was utilized to determine risk of bias of the included RCTs. Pairwise meta-analyses were performed using the random-effects model. Network meta-analysis of the included RCTs was carried out using frequentist framework.

Results: We identified 2 SRs with low quality and 18 SRs with very low quality, both of which contained 33 eligible RCTs (n = 3769). Most of these studies had unclear risk of bias. On the basis of ranking probability, NMA analysis showed that acupuncture at the sphenopalatine ganglion acupoint (OR: 1.31, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.61) had the highest probability of improving global allergic rhinitis symptoms, followed by San-Fu-Tie (OR: 1.17, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.27), manual acupuncture (OR:1.15, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.24) compared with conventional western medicine treatment. Moreover, direct comparison of the follow-up period showed that the clinical outcomes of acupuncture and related therapies at three-month (OR:1.34, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.55), six-month (OR: 1.31, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.57), and twelve-month (OR: 1.30, 95%CI 1.11 to 1.53) follow-up were better than those of traditional western medicine.

Conclusion: These results indicate that for patients with allergic rhinitis who are unresponsive to conventional western medicine or cannot tolerate the side effects, acupuncture at the sphenopalatine ganglion acupoint is an effective alternative therapy. Further studies are advocated to deeply explore methodological quality of SRs by incorporating high-quality RCTs.

Publication types

  • Review