Background: In 1998, the National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement on Acupuncture concluded that promising results have emerged showing the efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. The acupuncture point, P6 had been the point used in most of the trials.
Objectives: To summarize Cochrane systematic reviews assessing P6 stimulation for nausea and vomiting.
Results: Reviews were found on postoperative sickness, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Results for postoperative nausea and vomiting show the most consistent results with 26 trials and more than 3000 patients showing the superiority of real P6 stimulation over sham for both adults and children and for both nausea and vomiting. Pooled data of trials including different antiemetics showed that P6 stimulation seems to be superior to antiemetic medication for nausea and equivalent for vomiting. P6 stimulation was similarly effective across the different methods of stimulation, both invasive or noninvasive. Results for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting showed 11 trials and over 1200 patients. Electroacupuncture, but not manual acupuncture, was beneficial for first-day vomiting. Acupressure was effective for first-day nausea but not vomiting. Wristwatch-like electrical devices were not effective for any outcome. Results for pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting comprised six trials and approximately 1150 patients. Results were mixed with some trials showing positive and other trials equivocal results with no favor to a certain kind of method.
Conclusions: P6 stimulation may be beneficial for various conditions involving nausea and vomiting. The added value to modern antiemetics remains unclear. In patients on chemotherapy, future research should focus on patients for whom the problems are refractory. The next steps in research should include investigating whether acupuncture points added to P6 or individualizing treatment based on a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis increases treatment effectiveness. It would also be worthwhile to identify predictors of response across the different conditions so that the individual patients can optimize acupuncture point therapy.