A Phase II, Randomized, Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Reduction of Postcolectomy Ileus
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Postoperative ileus (POI) prolongs hospital stay and increases risk of postoperative complications. We conducted a randomized, sham-controlled trial to evaluate whether acupuncture reduces POI more effectively than sham acupuncture.
Colon cancer patients undergoing elective colectomy were randomized to receive 30 min of true or sham acupuncture twice daily during their first 3 postoperative days. GI-3 (the later of the following two events: time that the patient first tolerated solid food, AND time that the patient first passed flatus OR a bowel movement) and GI-2 (the later of the following two events: time patient first tolerated solid food AND time patient first passed a bowel movement) were determined. Pain, nausea, vomiting, and use of pain medications were evaluated daily for the first 3 postoperative days.
Ninety patients were randomized. Eighty-one received the allocated intervention: 39 in the true acupuncture group and 42 in the sham acupuncture group, all evaluated for the primary endpoint. The mean time to GI-3 was 149 h [standard deviation (SD) 71 h] and 146 (SD 62 h) after surgery for the acupuncture group and the sham acupuncture group (difference between means −2 h; 95 % confidence interval −31, 26; p = 0.9). No significant differences were found between groups for secondary endpoints.
True acupuncture as provided in this study did not reduce POI more significantly than sham acupuncture. The study was limited by a standard deviation much larger than expected, suggesting that a study with a larger sample size might be required.
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