Acupuncture for treating functional dyspepsia

Functional dyspepsia (FD) has been a worldwide gastric disorder. More effective therapies are needed with fewer adverse effects than are seen with conventional medications. In the East, acupuncture has been recognized for a long time as a positive therapy for the treatment of functional gastric disorders. To date, no robust evidence on its efficacy and safety has been found. The evidence obtained has overwhelmingly supported no significance of acupuncture compared with medications and superiority of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture in FD treatment; however, the low quality of evidence obtained has not permitted a robust conclusion concerning the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of FD.

Authors' conclusions: 

It remains unknown whether manual acupuncture or electroacupuncture is more effective or safer than other treatments for patients with FD.

Read the full abstract...

Functional dyspepsia (FD) has been a worldwide complaint. More effective therapies are needed with fewer adverse effects than are seen with conventional medications. Acupuncture, as a traditional therapeutic method, has been widely used for functional gastrointestinal disorders in the East. Manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture have been recognized treatments for FD, but to date, no robust evidence has been found for the effectiveness and safety of these interventions in the treatment of this condition.


This review was conducted to assess the efficacy and safety of manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture in the treatment of FD.

Search strategy: 

Trials meeting the inclusion criteria were identified through electronic searches of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED), Chinese Biology Medicine Disc (CBMdisc), China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), the Wanfang Database, the VIP Database, and six trial registries. Handsearching was done to screen the reference sections of potential trials and reviews.

Selection criteria: 

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included if investigators reported efficacy and safety of manual acupuncture or electroacupuncture for patients with FD diagnosed by Rome II or Rome III criteria, compared with medications, blank control, or sham acupuncture.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data were extracted by independent review authors. Study limitations were assessed by using the tool of The Cochrane Collabration for assessing risk of bias. For dichotomous data, risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) would be applied, and for continuous data, mean differences (MDs) and 95% CIs. A fixed-effect model was applied in the meta-analysis, or a descriptive analysis was performed. The quality of evidence for the outcome measure was assessed by the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) methods.

Main results: 

Seven studies were included in the review, involving 542 participants with FD (212 males and 330 females). These studies generally had an unclear risk of bias based on inadequate descriptions of allocation concealment and a high risk of bias based on lack of blinding. None of the studies reported on outcomes of the Functional Digestive Disorder Quality of Life questionnaire (FDDQL), the Satisfaction With Dyspepsia Related Health scale (SODA), the Digestive Health Status Instrument (DHSI), or effective/inefficient rate and symptom recurrence six months from completion of acupuncture treatment.

Four RCTs of acupuncture versus medications (cisapride, domperidone, and itopride) were included in the review. No statistically significant difference was noted in the reduction in FD symptom scores and the frequency of FD attack by manual acupuncture, manual-electroacupuncture, or electroacupuncture compared with medications. In three trials of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture, all descriptive or quantitative analysis results implied that acupuncture could improve FD symptom scores and scores on the Neck Disability Index (NDI), the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), the Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS), and the Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS) more or as significantly as sham acupuncture. With regard to adverse effects, acupuncture was superior to cisapride treatment (one study; all minor events), but no statistically significant difference was reported between acupuncture and sham acupuncture. No adverse effects data were reported in studies examining manual acupuncture versus domperidone, manual-electroacupuncture versus domperidone, or electroacupuncture versus itopride.

Nevertheless, all evidence was of low or very low quality. The body of evidence identified cannot yet permit a robust conclusion regarding the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for FD.