Acupuncture in the emergency department: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

Kwan Leung Chia, Rex Pui Kin Lam, Chung Kwun Lam, Sik Hon Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: A comprehensive review of both English and Chinese language literature to inform acupuncture practice in emergency department (ED) settings is lacking. Accordingly, we aimed to conduct a systematic review of English and Chinese randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of acupuncture use in the ED. 

Methods: Four English databases (Embase, PubMed, AMED and CENTRAL) and two Chinese databases (CNKI and Wanfang) were systematically searched using the keywords 'acupuncture' and 'emergency department', followed by a bibliographic search of references. The data were extracted and assessed by two independent authors. RCTs were selected based on pre-defined criteria. Data were extracted and a risk of bias assessment was performed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. The quality of evidence was rated using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. 

Results: In total, 1461 articles were screened and six RCTs involving 651 patients were included. For various acute pain conditions, acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture, more effective than intravenous morphine, comparable to conventional ED treatment, and superior to standard ED care alone when used on an adjuvant basis; however, the overall level of evidence was low. Studies that applied acupuncture in hypertension and cardiac arrest were deemed to be at high risk of bias, and the level of evidence for these outcomes was very low. No major adverse events were reported in the included studies. Conclusion There is a lack of high-quality evidence to support the use of acupuncture in the ED. Multicentre RCTs with rigorous designs are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
JournalAcupuncture in Medicine
Issue number3
Early online date26 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture
  • Emergency department
  • systematic review


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