Introduction: This multicenter, randomized, noninferiority trial compared electroacupuncture with prucalopride for the treatment of severe chronic constipation.
Methods: Participants with severe chronic constipation (≤ 2 mean weekly complete spontaneous bowel movements [CSBMs]) were randomly assigned to receive either 28-session electroacupuncture over 8 weeks with follow-up without treatment over 24 weeks or prucalopride (2 mg/d before breakfast) over 32 weeks. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants with ≥3 mean weekly CSBMs over weeks 3-8, based on the modified intention-to-treat population, with -10% as the noninferior margin.
Results: Five hundred sixty participants were randomized, 280 in each group. Electroacupuncture was noninferior to prucalopride for the primary outcome (36.2% vs 37.8%, with a difference of -1.6% [95% confidence interval, -8% to 4.7%], P < 0.001 for noninferiority); almost the same results were found in the per-protocol population. The proportions of overall CSBM responders through weeks 1-8 were similar in the electroacupuncture and prucalopride groups (24.91% vs 25.54%, with a difference of -0.63% [95% confidence interval, -7.86% to 6.60%, P = 0.864]). Except during the first 2-week treatment, no between-group differences were found in outcomes of excessive straining, stool consistency, and quality of life. Adverse events occurred in 49 (17.69%) participants in the electroacupuncture group and 123 (44.24%) in the prucalopride group. One non-treatment-related serious adverse event was recorded in the electroacupuncture group.
Discussion: Electroacupuncture was noninferior to prucalopride in relieving severe chronic constipation with a good safety profile. The effects of 8-week electroacupuncture could sustain for 24 weeks after treatment. Electroacupuncture is a promising noninferior alternative for severe chronic constipation.