Acupuncture and ART

Controlled trial of acupuncture effects in assisted reproduction therapy
Paulus W.E.1, Zhang M.2, Strehler E.1, Seybold B.1 and Sterzik K.Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Reproductive Medicine, Ulm, Germany and 2Tongji Medical University, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Wuhan, China

Introduction: In a former published prospective randomized study we demonstrated the benefitt of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in assisted reproduction therapy by comparing a group of patients receiving acupuncture treatment shortly before and after embryo transfer, with a control group receiving no acupuncture. To rule out the possibility that acupuncture produces only psychological or psychosomatic effects, we used a placebo needle set as a control in the present study.

Materials and Methods:Two hundred patients undergoing ICSI or IVF in our fertility centre were included in this prospective, randomized, placebo controlled trial. Only patients with good embryo quality were admitted. They were divided into two groups by random selection: embryo transfer with verum acupuncture (n = 100) and embryo transfer with placebo needling (n = 100). Verum acupuncture was performed in 100 patients 25 min before and after embryo transfer. In the control group (n = 100) a placebo needle set was used without penetrating the skin, but at the same acupoints and after the same scheme. Before embryo transfer we used the following locations: Cx6 (Neiguan), Sp8 (Diji), Liv3 (Taichong), Gv20 (Baihui) and S29 ( Guilai). After embryo transfer, the sterile disposable stainless steel needles (0.25 3 25 mm) were inserted at the following points: S36 (Zusanli), Sp6 (Sanyinjiao), Sp10 (Xuehai) and Li4 (Hegu). After 10 min the needles were rotated. The main outcome measure was clinical pregnancy defined by the presence of a fetal sac at ultrasound examination 6 weeks after embryo transfer. The Chi-squared test was used for comparison of both groups.

Results: Clinical pregnancies were documented in 43 of 100 patients (43.0%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate reached 37.0% (37 out of 100 patients) in the control group. A significant difference between verum acupuncture and placebo needling could not be demonstrated (P = 0.39).

Conclusion:The missing advantage of verum acupuncture versus placebo needling may be due to the methodical problem that real placebo models for acupuncture are lacking. Our placebo needle set induces an acupressure effect thus leading to a higher pregnancy rate than in our population without any complementary treatment.