This study aimed to assess the efficacy of acupuncture for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents.
PATIENTS AND METHODS:
Systematic review and meta-analysis including randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of acupuncture treatment (AT) with pharmacotherapy (methylphenidate hydrochloride, MPH) among patients with ADHD. A total of 12 electronic databases were searched from inception until February 3, 2020. The main outcomes were the effective rate and post-treatment hyperactivity scores. We also assessed the incidence of adverse events and follow-up course.
A total of 10 studies involving 876 patients were included in this study. The meta-analysis revealed that AT yielded a significantly higher effective rate than MPH (odds ratio 2.239, 95% CI 1.438-3.487, p < 0.001, 8 studies), and that AT can reduce the hyperactivity scores to a lesser degree than MPH (standardized mean difference = -0.882, 95% CI -1.295 to -0.469, p < 0.001, 3 studies). Two studies reported no adverse events in the AT group, while one study suggested that AT can reduce adverse drug reactions. Furthermore, 3 studies concluded that the effects of AT were maintained, even after completion of treatment.
This study suggests that AT may be more beneficial than MPH therapy for ADHD patients. However, the evidence may be highly limited, especially considering the outcome of hyperactivity scores with the high risk of bias, very low GRADE, and small number of studies. Thus, further studies of rigorous design and high quality are needed to confirm and strengthen the results, especially in the Western part of the world. Additionally, well-designed randomized controlled trials that evaluate adverse events and include a long-term follow-up should be conducted to determine the efficacy, safety, and side effects of AT for ADHD in children and adolescents.
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