Acupuncture for Pain in Chronic Pancreatitis: A Single-Blinded Randomized Crossover Trial

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Many patients with painful chronic pancreatitis (CP) have insufficient effect of treatment, and the prevalence of adverse effects is high. Consequently, alternatives to conventional management are needed. We aimed to study the effect of acupuncture in painful CP.


This was a prospective, single-blinded, randomized crossover trial. Fifteen patients with CP were assigned to a session of acupuncture followed by sham stimulation or vice versa. Patients rated clinical pain scores daily on a 0 to 10 visual analogue scale (VAS) and completed the Patient Global Impression of Change. For mechanistic linkage, resting state electroencephalograms were recorded and quantified by spectral power analysis to explore effects on central pain processing.


Acupuncture, compared with sham stimulation, caused more pain relief (2.0 ± 1.5 VAS vs 0.7 ± 0.8 VAS; P = 0.009). The effect, however, was short, and after 1-week follow-up, there was no difference in clinical pain scores between groups (P = 1.0) or the rating of Patient Global Impression of Change (P = 0.8). Electroencephalogram spectral power distributions between sham and acupuncture were comparable between groups (all P > 0.6).


The study presents proof-of-concept for the analgesic effect of acupuncture in pancreatic pain. Although the effect was short lasting, the framework may be used to conceptualize future trials of acupuncture in visceral pain.

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