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Daily Dose: Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Patient Care brings primary care clinicians a lot of medical news every day—it’s easy to miss an important study. The Daily Dose provides a concise summary of one of the website's leading stories you may not have seen.


On January 3, 2023, we reported on a study published in JAMA Network Open that was designed to assess the use of less subjective primary endpoints in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) research.

The study

The pilot, multicenter, randomized clinical trial was conducted in 4 tertiary hospitals in China between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Patients aged 18 to 75 years who met ROME IV criteria for diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) were screened. Participants in the final cohort were randomized 1:1:1 to receive either specific acupoint (SA), nonspecific acupoint (NSA), or nonacupoint (NA) treatment and all were treated in twelve 30-minute acupuncture sessions over 4 consecutive weeks, attending 3 sessions per week. Overall, there were 90 patients included in the pilot study with 30 patients assigned to each treatment group.

Researchers reported substantial improvements in the primary outcomes for all 3 groups, with composite rates as follows:

  • SA group: 46.7%

  • NSA group: 46.7%

  • NA group: 26.7%

Improvements in adequate relief at week 4 also were substantially improved, with composite rates of:

  • SA group: 64.3%

  • NSA group: 62.1%

  • NA group: 55.2%

Clinical implications

“In this pilot randomized clinical trial, acupuncture in both the SA and NSA groups showed clinically meaningful improvement in IBS-D symptoms, although there were no significant differences among the 3 groups. These findings suggest that acupuncture is feasible and safe; a larger, sufficiently powered trial is needed to accurately assess efficacy.”

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