Acupuncture as a tool to reduce nausea in terminally ill patients

Author: Lotte Brøndum1, Birte Markfoged1, Jeanette Finderup2,3,4
1 Hospice Limfjord, Skive, Denmark.
2 Department of Renal Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.
3 Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
4 ResCenPI - Research Centre for Patient Involvement, Aarhus University & the Central Denmark Region, Aarhus, Denmark.

Conference/Journal: Scand J Caring Sci
Date published: 2021 Apr 24
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/scs.12991. , Word Count: 283

To investigate if acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting in terminally ill patients.

A comparative effectiveness research design was used to generate evidence-based knowledge close to practice for the use of clinicians. The sample size was calculated to 136 patients randomised into an intervention and a control group, respectively. Nausea and vomiting were measured using the EORTC QLQ-c15-PAL (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer, Quality of Life Questionnaire, core 15, Palliation).

The trial was conducted among terminally ill patients admitted to three in-bed hospices in Demark.

Terminally ill patients suffering from nausea and/or vomiting; 95% of patients had cancer.

The intervention group received acupuncture in addition to usual care for three days. We used the acupuncture spots: Pericardium-6, Stomach-36, Liver-3 and Yin Tang. The control group received usual care only.

In total, 136 patients were randomised, 24 patients withdrew resulting in a total sample of 112 patients: 52 patients in the intervention group and 60 patients in the control group. In the intervention group, 75% of the patients experienced a reduction of their nausea score after the intervention compared to 55% in the control group. The statistical difference was p = 0.028. In the intervention group, 52% of the patients did not experience nausea at all after the intervention compared to 30% in the control group. In the intervention group, 31% of the patients were still vomiting after the intervention compared to 34% in the control group; no statistically significant difference was found.

Acupuncture reduced the experience of nausea among terminally ill patients but did not reduce vomiting. Thus, acupuncture is recommended to reduce nausea among terminally ill patients.

Keywords: Liver-3; Pericardium-6; Stomach-36; Yin Tang; acupuncture; comparative effectiveness research; hospice; nausea; palliative care; terminal ill; vomiting.

PMID: 33894009 DOI: 10.1111/scs.12991