Acupuncture for the treatment of phantom limb syndrome in lower limb amputees: A randomised controlled feasibility study

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BACKGROUND Post amputation, the complication of phantom limb pain (PLP) is prevalent and difficult to manage. This study aimed to determine whether it was feasible and acceptable to undertake a definitive multicentred randomised controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating lower limb amputees with PLP. METHODS A mixed-methods embedded design, including a randomised controlled trial and semistructured interviews, was undertaken. A total of 15 participants with PLP were randomly assigned to receive either eight pragmatic Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture treatments and usual care or usual care alone over 4 weeks. Outcome measures were completed at baseline, weekly throughout the study and at 1 month post completion of the study and included: a numerical pain-rating scale, the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire 2, the EQ-5D-5 L, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale 10-item, the Insomnia Severity Index, and the Patient Global Impression of Change. Post completion of the trial, participants in the acupuncture group were interviewed about their experience. Feasibility-specific data were also collected. RESULTS Of 24 amputees meeting the study inclusion criteria, 15 agreed to participate (recruitment rate 62.50 %). Qualitatively, acupuncture was perceived to be beneficial and effective. Quantitatively, acupuncture demonstrated clinically meaningful change in average pain intensity (raw change = 2.69) and worst pain intensity (raw change = 4.00). Feasibility-specific data identified that before undertaking a definitive trial, recruitment, practitioner adherence to the acupuncture protocol, completion of outcome measures at 1 month follow-up and blinding should be addressed. Appropriate outcome measures were identified for use in a definitive trial. Data were generated for future sample size calculations (effect size 0.64). Allowing for a 20 % dropout rate, a sample size of 85 participants per group would be needed in a future definitive trial. CONCLUSIONS A future definitive trial may be possible if the areas identified in this study are addressed. As acupuncture may be effective at treating PLP, and as this feasibility study suggests that a definitive trial may be possible, a multicentred trial with adequate sample size and blinding is now needed. TRIAL REGISTRATION Identifier: NCT02126436 , registered on 4 September 2014.




Trevelyan, E. G., Turner, W. A., Summerfield-Mann, L., & Robinson, N. (2016). Acupuncture for the treatment of phantom limb syndrome in lower limb amputees: A randomised controlled feasibility study. Trials, 17(1).

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