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Acupuncture ‘reduces breathlessness’ in COPD

Acupuncture for patients with COPD can have a comparable effect on dyspnoea and exercise capacity as pulmonary rehabilitation, a trial has found.

Japanese researchers looked at 68 patients with GOLD stage II, III or IV COPD and randomised them to receive either real acupuncture, or placebo acupuncture using blunt needles.

Participants had no history of exacerbations of their symptoms, and had not undergone pulmonary rehabilitation within the last six months.

After 12 weeks of intervention, the Borg scale score used to measure breathlessness after a six minute walk test had improved from 5.5 to 1.9 in the real acupuncture group, compared with no improvement in the placebo group – a difference that was statistically significant.

Improvement in oxygen saturation after the walk test was also significantly improved in the real acupuncture group, with a 3.5% increase compared to a decrease of 1.6% in the placebo group.

Study lead Dr Masao Suzuki, lecturer in respiratory medicine at Kyoto University, said: ‘Our results are comparable with standard care such as rehabilitation or exercise, where the improvement in Borg scale in previous research has been found to be 1.1 to 3.6U.’

Arch Intern Med, online 14 May 2012