Electro-acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome patients: study protocol for a single-blinded randomized sham-controlled clinical trial

Linda L. D. Zhong*, Tsz Fung Lam, Wei Yang, Ya Zheng, Zipan Lyu, Zhaoxiang Bian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders in clinical practice. IBS diagnosis is based on symptoms defined by abdominal pain or discomfort associated with defecation or changes in bowel habits. Gut-brain interaction caused by stress or depressive emotion is one of the essential pathologies. Acupuncture has been used for the treatment of internal medicine, including digestive disorders and depressive disorders in Chinese medicine. This study aims to determine whether electro-acupuncture could have significant benefits than sham acupuncture for IBS. 

Methods/design: This is a single-blinded randomized sham-controlled clinical trial with two arms. A total of 120 IBS patients will be recruited. After a 2-week run-in period, eligible subjects will be randomly assigned to one of two arms, acupuncture (AC) arm and sham acupuncture (SAC) arm. Each eligible subject will go through a 2-week run-in-period, 6-week treatment period, and 6-week follow-up period. Five visits in total were scheduled for each subject in week 0, week 2, week 5, week 8, and week 14. The outcomes would be measured with (1) IBS-SSS, (2) Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), (3) Clinical Global Impression-Severity (CGI-S), (4) Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS), and (5) IBS Quality of Life (IBS-QoL). 

Discussion: The study will compare electro-acupuncture with sham acupuncture to explore the feasibility of electro-acupuncture in improving IBS symptoms. 

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.govNCT04387383. Registered on 13 May 2020

Original languageEnglish
Article number619
Issue number1
Early online date15 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Electro-acupuncture
  • IBS
  • Irritable bowel syndrome


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