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Allen J, Mak SS, Begashaw M, Larkin J, Miake-Lye I, Beroes-Severin J, Olson J, Shekelle PG. Use of Acupuncture for Adult Health Conditions, 2013 to 2021: A Systematic Review. JAMA Network Open. 2022 Nov 1; 5(11):e2243665.
IMPORTANCE: Acupuncture is a popular treatment that has been advocated for dozens of adult health conditions and has a vast evidence base. OBJECTIVE: To map the systematic reviews, conclusions, and certainty or quality of evidence for outcomes of acupuncture as a treatment for adult health conditions. EVIDENCE REVIEW: Computerized search of PubMed and 4 other databases from 2013 to 2021. Systematic reviews of acupuncture (whole body, auricular, or electroacupuncture) for adult health conditions that formally rated the certainty, quality, or strength of evidence for conclusions. Studies of acupressure, fire acupuncture, laser acupuncture, or traditional Chinese medicine without mention of acupuncture were excluded. Health condition, number of included studies, type of acupuncture, type of comparison group, conclusions, and certainty or quality of evidence. Reviews with at least 1 conclusion rated as high-certainty evidence, reviews with at least 1 conclusion rated as moderate-certainty evidence, and reviews with all conclusions rated as low- or very low-certainty evidence; full list of all conclusions and certainty of evidence. FINDINGS: A total of 434 systematic reviews of acupuncture for adult health conditions were found; of these, 127 reviews used a formal method to rate certainty or quality of evidence of their conclusions, and 82 reviews were mapped, covering 56 health conditions. Across these, there were 4 conclusions that were rated as high-certainty evidence, and 31 conclusions that were rated as moderate-certainty evidence. All remaining conclusions ( > 60) were rated as low- or very low-certainty evidence. Approximately 10% of conclusions rated as high or moderate-certainty were that acupuncture was no better than the comparator treatment, and approximately 75% of high- or moderate-certainty evidence conclusions were about acupuncture compared with a sham or no treatment. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Despite a vast number of randomized trials, systematic reviews of acupuncture for adult health conditions have rated only a minority of conclusions as high- or moderate-certainty evidence, and most of these were about comparisons with sham treatment or had conclusions of no benefit of acupuncture. Conclusions with moderate or high-certainty evidence that acupuncture is superior to other active therapies were rare.