Background: Weight loss and low body mass index with cachexia are serious and refractory clinical conditions in patients with advanced chronic respiratory disease. This pilot study aimed to determine whether acupuncture improves dietary intake through increased appetite stimulation, and nutritional biomarkers, in cachectic patients with advanced respiratory illness.
Methods: This study used a single-arm, open experimental design, and was conducted among hospitalized patients whose dietary intake was extremely decreased due to poor appetite. Food intake, and biomarkers were evaluated before and after acupuncture (3 times a week for 3 weeks).
Results: Ten patients (age: 70.5 years [interquartile range (IQR): 68.7–75.8 years], 50% females) completed the acupuncture treatment. Significant improvements in appetite loss (visual analog scale [VAS]: 58.6 mm [42–83 mm] to 37.2 mm [19.5–50.8 mm], p = 0.0039), amount of food intake (1461 Kcal/day [1204–1620 Kcal/day] to 1696 Kcal/day [1443–2047 Kcal/day], p = 0.0039), and serum nutritional biomarker (albumin: 3.3 g/dL [3–3.8 g/dL] to 3.5 [3.3–3.7 g/dL], p = 0.0293; pre-albumin: 14.4 mg/dL [10–19.5 mg/dL] to 16.7 mg/dL [11.1–21.6 mg/dL], p = 0.0137) were observed after acupuncture. Body weight loss (0 kg [-1.4 to 1.75 kg], p = 0.0078, 0% [-3.25% to 4.7%], p = 0.0078) 6 months after acupuncture was significantly improved versus 6 months before acupuncture (-3.8 kg [-6.4 to -0.3 kg], -5.2% [-11.8% to -0.83%]).
Conclusions: Short-term acupuncture may be a novel and safe treatment for improving the appetite and nutritional status of cachectic patients with advanced chronic respiratory illness.
Trial registration: UMIN000044859; Date of registration: July 14, 2021-Retrospectively registered; https://www.umin.ac.jp/