The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for the treatment of myasthenia gravis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Xue Zhang, Wentao Ding, Zhao Wang, Xiuli Gu, Wenzeng Zhu


Background: No systematic reviews of acupuncture as a treatment for myasthenia gravis (MG) have been published in English. The aim of our study is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of acupuncture as a treatment for MG.
Methods: We searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in seven main electronic databases. Unpublished articles, including conference papers and Chinese doctoral and master’s theses, were also included as supplementary sources. The primary outcome was the relative clinical score (RCS) response rate. We performed a meta-analysis using RR and MD with 95% CI.
Results: Thirteen RCTs involving a total of 775 participants were included. Most included trials had a high risk of bias in allocation concealment and blinding. Eleven RCTs used acupuncture as an adjuvant to medication, and this treatment showed a significant improvement in the RCS response rate compared to medication alone (RR: 1.42; 95% CI: 1.06–1.91; P=0.02). The subgroup analysis based on the treatment duration showed a significant effect on the RCS response rate when the treatment duration was longer than 12 weeks (RR: 2.02; 95% CI: 1.31–3.12; P=0.001). In contrast, there was no significant effect of treatment with a duration less than 8 weeks (RR: 1.14; 95% CI: 0.91–1.44; P=0.26). Four RCTs showed a significant difference in the absolute clinical score (ACS) (RR: 3.42; 95% CI: 1.23–5.61; P=0.002). The acupuncture group reported better outcomes. No severe adverse events corresponding to acupuncture were reported.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis suggests that acupuncture as an integrative therapy has a significant positive effect in treating MG. Acupuncture may enhance the efficacy of medication in MG patients. The safety of acupuncture requires further investigation. The clinical significance of these changes needs to be investigated by further studies using rigorous designs and longer follow-up times.