To determine whether an acupuncture technique specially developed for a surgical oncology population (intervention) reduces pain or analgesic use after thoracotomy compared to a sham acupuncture technique (control).
One hundred and sixty two cancer patients undergoing thoracotomy were randomized to group A) preoperative implantation of small intradermal needles which were retained for 4 weeks or B) preoperative placement of sham needles at the same schedule. Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) of pain and total opioid use we evaluated during the in-patient stay; Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and Medication Quantification Scale (MQS) were evaluated after discharge up to 3 months after the surgery.
The principal analysis, a comparison of BPI pain intensity scores at the 30 day follow-up, showed no significant difference between the intervention and control group. Pain scores were marginally higher in the intervention group 0.05 (95% C.I.: 0.74, -0.64; p=0.9). There were also no statistically significant differences between groups for secondary endpoints, including chronic pain assessments at 60 and 90 days, in-patient pain, and medication use in hospital and after discharge.
A special acupuncture technique as provided in this study did not reduce pain or use of pain medication after thoracotomy more than a sham technique.
Keywords: Acupuncture, thoracotomy, pain, sham acupuncture