Clinical reporting in acupuncture studies

A. Elorriaga Claraco , A. Fargas-Babjak, St. Hanna


To investigate the reporting of clinical details in a selected sample of 30 randomised control Mals (RCT) of acupuncture efficacy for the treatment of migraine/headaches (MH, N=11) and nausea/vomiting (NV, N=19), to assess the quality of study design, and to evaluate the reporting of outcome measures.


A check list of fifty clinical details, selected on the basis of a previous survey, was used to evaluate the information about patients, practitioners, diagnosis, and treatments presented in each RCT. Quality of study design was assessed using a previously validated scale. Outcome measures were coded as fully, partially, or not reported, and discussion about their clinical significance was equally coded. Results: In this sample of RCT only an average of 38.7% of important clinical details per trial were fully reported, with a lowest of 26.4% for the MH group. Better designed studies were not more likely to report important clinical details than the poorly designed ones. Only five studies (16.7%) provided information about the reliability and validity of the outcome measures used. Only four studies (13.3%), all from the MH group, discussed the clinical significance of the outcome measures.


The results of this study show that RCT about acupuncture efficacy for MH and NV are neglecting to report adequately on: 1) important clinical details; 2) the choice of outcome measures; and 3) the clinical significance of the outcome measures. For acupuncture research to be useful, clinicians need to know about diagnostic and treatment procedures used on a study and about the clinical significance of the outcome measures, in order to be able to interpret the magnitude of observed differences between treatment groups in terms of their therapeutic value, regardless of statistical significance. 1n the future, other areas of clinical acupuncture research need to be reviewed in this manner, and recommendations about reporting of clinically relevant details and the use of adequate outcome measures should be made.