Cochrane: acupuncture does nothing for hypertension

  • Cochrane Database Syst Rev

  • curated by Emily Willingham, PhD
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • This Cochrane review of randomized controlled trials of acupuncture for hypertension finds no evidence that acupuncture lowers BP.
  • Even short-term effects are “uncertain,” say these authors.
  • An effect detected in trials without sham acupuncture control suggests bias.

Why this matters

  • Acupuncture is a popular nonpharmaceutical intervention that some believe reduced BP.
  • An ineffective intervention leaves people with hypertension at continued risk for strokes and heart attacks.

Key results

  • 4 of 22 trials used sham acupuncture; these found minimal, short-term effects (in hours) in reducing BP: systolic reduction, −3.4 (95% CI, −6.0 to −0.9) mmHg; diastolic: −1.9 (−3.6 to −0.3) mmHg.
  • Some trials compared acupuncture to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, others to calcium antagonists, with some results suggesting short-term effects, but bias risk was “very high.”
  • Remaining trials were poor quality, showed no evidence of long-term BP effect.
  • Safety was not assessable.

Study design

  • Review of 22 trials, n=1744.
  • Funding: National Basic Research Program and National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Limitations

  • Limitations are those of the included trials and include high bias and poor quality.

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