Background: Infant bronchiolitis has a high death rate in severe cases. In China, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is commonly used to treat infant bronchiolitis. However, it has not received enough international attention.
Objective: We aimed to assess the efficacy and safety of integrated TCM and Western medicine for treating infant bronchiolitis.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review through 7 databases that included randomized controlled trials on integrated TCM and Western medicine for treating bronchiolitis, published in English or Chinese before February 4, 2021. To assess the risk of bias, the Cochrane Collaboration tool was employed to determine the quality of the included studies. We investigated clinical efficacy endpoints, hospitalization time, rates of recurrence, and adverse reactions and meta-analyzed the odds ratio (OR), mean difference (MD), and relative risk (RR), respectively. We assessed the overall certainty of the effect estimates using the GRADE approach. This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42021245294). Ethical approval is not required.
Results: Forty-six studies (6427 children) were available for inclusion. We used 41 (5490 participants), 11 (1350 participants), 5 (1083 participants), and 11 (1295 participants) studies to analyze clinical efficacy endpoints (OR: 3.31; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.93, 3.74; P < .5), hospitalization time (MD: -2.10; 95% CI: -2.87, -1.34; P < .5), recurrence rate (RR: 0·41; 95% CI: 0.30, 0.56; P < .01), and adverse reaction rate (RR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.55, 1.39; P = .57), respectively.
Conclusions: Integrated TCM and Western medicine is superior to Western medicine alone for treating bronchiolitis in terms of clinical efficacy, hospitalization time, and recurrence rate, with no increase in the adverse reaction rate. TCM is useful as an alternative therapy for viral bronchiolitis.