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Compare the efficacy of acupuncture with drugs in the treatment of Bell's palsy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs
Zhang R, Wu T, Wang R, Wang D, Liu Q, Aslam MS
Medicine 2019 May;98(19):e15566
systematic review

BACKGROUND: Bell's palsy or idiopathic facial paralysis is an acute facial paralysis caused by the inflammation of facial nerve. Several previous studies showed that acupuncture was beneficial in the treatment of facial paralysis. However, its effectiveness is still controversial compared with drug therapy. Therefore, this systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to assess the efficacy of acupuncture for Bell's palsy. METHODS: This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical studies among patients with Bell's palsy. We did a systematic literature search in PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials to identify studies comparing the efficacy of acupuncture and drug treatment in treating facial paralysis. The search was last updated on July 2018. RESULTS: The study included 11 randomized controlled trials with an overall sample of 1,258 individuals. Acupuncture treatment was associated with an increased cure rate (relative risk (RR) 1.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.41 to 2.21), with significant heterogeneity in the pooled results (I2 = 67%, p = 0.0008). There was a significant difference in total effective rate in acupuncture and drug treatment for Bell's palsy (RR 1.18,95% CI 1.07 to 1.31), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 90%, p < 0.00001). CONCLUSION: Although there was not enough evidence to prove its safety, acupuncture seems to be an effective therapy for Bell's palsy. Results of the present meta-analysis showed that acupuncture was associated with increased cure rate and total effective rate of the treatment of Bell's palsy in comparison with drugs. However, the results should be interpreted cautiously, because of the poor quality and heterogeneity of the included studies. In the future, more and more high quality randomized controlled trials (RCT) are needed to prove the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture.

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