Moxibustion relieves the side effects of chemotherapy

Objective: This systematic review aims to assess whether moxibustion is effective and safe for gastrointestinal adverse effects, a common and thorny issue arising from chemotherapy.

Methods: Seven electronic databases were searched up to August 28, 2021, to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing moxibustion versus non-moxibustion treatments for various gastrointestinal adverse effects after chemotherapy. The Karnofsky performance status (KPS) and quality of life scores and the incidence of moxibustion-related adverse events were also investigated. Effects in meta-analyses were measured by risk ratios (RRs) or mean differences (MDs).

Results: Thirty-two RCTs (n = 2990) were included. Compared to the controls, moxibustion significantly reduced the incidences of nausea/vomiting (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.61-0.79), severe nausea/vomiting (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.29-0.51), diarrhoea (RR 0.56, 95% CI 0.38-0.82), constipation (RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.44-0.78), and abdominal distension (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.46-0.78). The KPS (MD 7.53, 95% CI 3.42-11.64) and quality of life (MD 8.88, 95% CI 0.96-16.80) scores were also significantly improved after moxibustion. The results did not support a benefit of moxibustion on inappetence (RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.40-1.22) or abdominal pain (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.28-1.30). All adverse events related to moxibustion were mild.

Conclusions: Moderate-to very-low-quality evidence suggests that moxibustion may be safely used as an adjuvant treatment after chemotherapy to reduce the incidences of nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, and abdominal distension and improve the performance status and quality of life in patients with malignant tumours.


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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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