This study aimed to summarize the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through literature analysis and evaluation.
All studies were retrieved from various databases as follows: English databases, such as PubMed, Cochrane Library, Ovid, and Web of Science, and Chinese databases, such as China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), WanFang Data (WF), and Technology Periodical Database (VIP). The Cochrane Collaboration's Bias Risk Assessment Scale was used to assess the studies' risk of bias. The effects of acupuncture treatment for ASD were determined using the following indicators: childhood autism rating scale (CARS), autism behavior check list (ABC), Reynell developmental language scale (RDLS), and functional independence measure of children (WeeFIM). The risk map of bias of these studies' quality and the meta-analysis results of the indicators was prepared with RevMan 5.2 software.
Finally, 16 studies were included, five of which were in English and 11 were in Chinese. The 16 studies included 1332 patients. The CARS results for subgroup analysis were as follows: acupuncture subgroup (MD = -2.65, 95% CI (-3.22, -2.07)) and acupuncture plus massage subgroup (MD = -10.35, 95% CI (-11.34, -9.36)). The ABC results were as follows: (MD = -6.70, 95% CI (-9.10, -4.29)). The analysis results of sensory, relating, language, body and object use, and social/self-help in the subitems of ABC were as follows: sensory (MD = -2.67, 95% CI (-2.90, -2.44)), relating (MD = -3.28, 95% CI (-3.55, -3.02)), language (MD = -2.45, 95% CI (-2.73, -2.16)), body and object use (MD = -1.19, 95% CI (-1.38, -1.00)), and social/self-help (MD = -2.09, 95% CI (-2.30, -1.89)). For the analysis results of comprehension and expression ages in the subitems of RDLS, the comprehension age results were as follows: (MD = 0.08, 95% CI (-0.06, 0.22), P = 0.27). Those of expression age were as follows: (MD = 0.15, 95% CI (0.04, 0.26), P=0.009). The WeeFIM results were as follows: (MD = 3.70, 95% CI (2.38, 5.02)).
This study suggested that acupuncture could effectively treat ASD. However, acupuncture methods and prescriptions at this stage remain heterogeneous, and acupuncture treatment operations require standardization. Studies using rigorous and standard research designs are needed to draw stronger conclusions about the advantages of using acupuncture to treat children and adolescents with ASD.
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