Acupuncture reduces readmission rates to hospitals for pain relief

Objectives: The prevalence of inpatient integrative medicine (IM) consult services is increasing among academic health care institutions. The diversity of services between institutions, as well as the novel nature of such interventions, makes it challenging for health care administrators to determine the cost/benefit of adding such a program to their institution. The main purpose of this study was to examine the performance of the new University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) East-West (EW) consult service as measured by 30-day readmission rates and lengths of stay. 

Design: This is a retrospective observational case-control study with participants matched to themselves. 

Setting: UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, a 281-bed academic tertiary care hospital near Los Angeles, California. 

Subjects: Patients who had received an EW consultation during the inaugural 20 months of the program (2018-2020), and who had been hospitalized in the prior 2 years from the date of their first EW consult. 

Intervention: Inpatient East-West consultation, which may include counseling, acupuncture and/or trigger point injections depending on medical necessity. 

Outcome Measures: Thirty-day readmission rates and lengths of hospital admission were compared between the hospitalization that included an EW consult (which included the use of acupuncture and/or trigger point injections when appropriate) and any prior admissions during the 2 years before that EW consult. Secondary outcomes included quantitative analysis of average number of treatments and qualitative assessment of integrative treatment(s) received, conditions treated, and reasons that EW treatment may have been deferred during a consult. 

Results: One hundred sixty-five unique patients met the study criteria. The EW consultation was associated with clinically relevant, statistically significant decreased 30-day readmission rates (33.0% vs. 4.6%, p < 0.001, odds ratio [OR] 0.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.06-0.17). This effect was similar when limiting the analysis to pain-related admissions (32.3% vs. 3.4%, p < 0.001, OR = 0.07, 95% CI 0.03-0.16). Hospital admissions with EW consults were found to have a statistically significant increased length of stay (7.03 days vs. 5.40 days, p < 0.001). 

Conclusion: The EW medicine, an example of IM, correlates with a reduced risk of 30-day readmission and with modestly increased lengths of stay.


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About Attilio

Doctor of Chinese medicine, acupuncture expert and author of My Fertility Guide and My Pregnancy Guide.

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