Acceptance and use of complementary and alternative medicine among medical specialists: a 15-year systematic review and data synthesis

Syst Rev. 2022 Jan 14;11(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s13643-021-01882-4.


Background: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has gained popularity among the general population, but its acceptance and use among medical specialists have been inconclusive. This systematic review aimed to identify relevant studies and synthesize survey data on the acceptance and use of CAM among medical specialists.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search in PubMed and Scopus databases for the acceptance and use of CAM among medical specialists. Each article was assessed by two screeners. Only survey studies relevant to the acceptance and use of CAM among medical specialists were reviewed. The pooled prevalence estimates were calculated using random-effects meta-analyses. This review followed both PRISMA and SWiM guidelines.

Results: Of 5628 articles published between 2002 and 2017, 25 fulfilled the selection criteria. Ten medical specialties were included: Internal Medicine (11 studies), Pediatrics (6 studies), Obstetrics and Gynecology (6 studies), Anesthesiology (4 studies), Surgery (3 studies), Family Medicine (3 studies), Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (3 studies), Psychiatry and Neurology (2 studies), Otolaryngology (1 study), and Neurological Surgery (1 study). The overall acceptance of CAM was 52% (95%CI, 42-62%). Family Medicine reported the highest acceptance, followed by Psychiatry and Neurology, Neurological Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Internal Medicine, and Surgery. The overall use of CAM was 45% (95% CI, 37-54%). The highest use of CAM was by the Obstetrics and Gynecology, followed by Family Medicine, Psychiatry and Neurology, Pediatrics, Otolaryngology, Anesthesiology, Internal Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Surgery. Based on the studies, meta-regression showed no statistically significant difference across geographic regions, economic levels of the country, or sampling methods.

Conclusion: Acceptance and use of CAM varied across medical specialists. CAM was accepted and used the most by Family Medicine but the least by Surgery. Findings from this systematic review could be useful for strategic harmonization of CAM and conventional medicine practice.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42019125628.

Keywords: Acceptance; Complementary and alternative medicine; Medical specialist; Use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Humans
  • Neurology*
  • Obstetrics*
  • Psychiatry*