The following is a summary of “Acupuncture for Uremic Pruritus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” published in the January 2023 issue of Pain Management by Zhang, et al.

A chronic condition called uremic pruritus (UP) can significantly negatively impact dialysis patients’ quality of life. Disorders of pruritus have been treated using acupuncture, a non-drug treatment. For a study, researchers sought to assess the effectiveness and security of acupuncture for treating UP. 

About 214 studies were obtained from a total of nine searches across Chinese and English databases from their creation to December 31, 2021. Last but not least, the meta-analysis carried out with RevMan V.5.3 contained 7 randomized controlled trials (n=504). 

Results were broken down into effective, recurrence, and adverse event rates. Acupuncture was more effective than conventional therapy for treating UP (risk ratio [RR]=1.28, 95% CI=1.09 to 1.50, P=0.003). After sensitivity analysis, the findings were similar (RR=1.38, 95% CI=1.21 to 1.57, P<0.00001). The effectiveness rates of oral and topical medicines and acupuncture were equal in the subgroup analysis (RR=1.20, 95% CI=0.98 to 1.47, P=0.07). Hemodialysis alone was not as effective in reducing pruritus as acupuncture and hemodialysis were (RR=1.42, 95% CI=1.18 to 1.72, P=0.0002). Only three trials reported adverse events, one of which involved hyperphosphatemia in the treatment group (RR=0.29, 95% CI=0.01 to 7.06, P=0.45). Recurrence rates were not recorded in any of the trials. 

In conclusion, acupuncture is a safe therapeutic option for UP patients undergoing hemodialysis that can successfully reduce UP symptoms. In addition, acupuncture and hemodialysis work better together to reduce UP symptoms than hemodialysis alone.