Acupuncture/ pressureKidney Disease

Review: Acupuncture to control itch in dialysis patients

Uremic pruritus is characterized by continuous scratching, with lesions and superimposed infections. It’s a frustrating, common, and potentially disabling complication in patients treated with kidney dialysis.

Prof. Ernst reviewed the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating uremic pruritus in patients with end-stage renal disease.

First, the details.

  • All prospective clinical studies of needle acupuncture for uremic pruritus in hemodialysis patients with end-stage kidney disease were included regardless of their design.
    • 3 randomized controlled studies (patients randomly assigned to treatment)
    • 3 uncontrolled observational studies (no attempt to affect outcomes) were included.
  • Risk of bias of the included studies was assessed using the Cochrane criteria.
  • A review of different study designs is here.

And, the results.

  • All of the studies reported beneficial effects of acupuncture.
  • Most of the studies showed a high risk of bias, which leaves their reports unconvincing.

The bottom line?

The good professor isn’t convinced.

He and his colleagues concluded, “The current evidence is insufficient to show that acupuncture is an effective treatment for uremic pruritus in patients with end-stage renal disease because of suboptimal quality and lack of methodological rigor of included studies.”

Unfortunately, alternative allopathic treatment options are limited.

9/16/10 21:15 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.