Clinical research in acupuncture has been criticized for not reflecting real-world practice in terms of diagnosis and intervention. This study aimed to collect data on the principles of diagnosis and selection of acupoints from Korean medicine doctors (KMDs) and analyze the patterns and priorities in decision-making.
The study design was based on the data of an actual patient with functional dyspepsia (FD) (according to Rome III criteria) to create simulated patients, and a KMD specialized in gastrointestinal disorders was allocated to collect the clinical information as objectively as possible. Sixty-nine KMDs were recruited to diagnose a simulated patient based on the actual patient’s clinical information, in a manner similar to that performed in their clinics.
After the diagnostic procedures were completed, the pattern identification, selected acupoints, reasons for choosing them, and importance of symptoms for deciding their diagnoses were documented. The information needed was clearly distinguishable from those routinely asked in western medicine, and information regarding fecal status, abdominal examination, appetite status, pulse diagnosis, and tongue diagnosis were listed as vital. The doctors identified the patient’s pattern as “spleen-stomach weakness”, “liver qi depression”, or “food accumulation or phlegm-fluid retention”. The most frequently selected acupoints were CV12, LI4, LR3, ST36, and PC6.
There are common acupoints across different patterns, but pattern-specific acupoints were also recommended. These results can provide useful information to design clinical research and education for better clinical performance in acupuncture that reflects real-world practice.

© 2020 Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine. Publishing services by Elsevier B.V.