In head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), the potential mitigating effect of complementary medicine interventions such as acupuncture for radiation-induced toxicity is unknown. This study aimed to assess the impact of acupuncture on the incidence and degree of severity of common radiation-induced side effects.
In accordance with pre-specified PICO criteria, a systematic review was performed. Two electronic databases (Medline and Embase) were searched over a 10-year time frame (01/01/10 to 30/09/20). Patients undergoing a curatively intended, radiation-based treatment for histologically confirmed squamous cell carcinoma of the nasopharynx, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx and oral cavity represented the target population of our study. Accurate information on the acupuncture methodology was reported. All included articles were evaluated to identify any potential source of bias RESULTS: Five papers were included in our qualitative analysis, for a total of 633 subjects. Compliance to per-protocol defined schedule of acupuncture sessions was high, ranging from 82 to 95.9%. Most patients (70.6%) were randomly allocated to receive acupuncture for its potential preventive effect on xerostomia. The large heterogeneity in study settings and clinical outcomes prevented from performing a cumulative quantitative analysis, thus no definitive recommendations can be provided.
Although shown to be feasible and safe, no firm evidence currently supports the use of acupuncture for the routine management of radiation-induced toxicity in HNSCC.

© 2021. The Author(s).