To provide a route map regarding systematic reviews (SRs) of acupuncture therapies that will meet two goals: (1) to identify areas in which more or better evidence is required and (2) to identify acupuncture applications that, although proven effective, remain underused in practice, and thus warrant more effective knowledge dissemination.
We included SRs that conducted meta-analyses (MAs) of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) for this overview.
We searched for SRs without language restrictions from January 2015 to November 2020 in four Chinese electronic databases and Epistemonikos database. And we also searched for newly published RCTs that were eligible for selected best SRs in PubMed, Medline, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase and four Chinese electronic databases from its lasted search dates to November 2020.
Synthesis of results
We reanalysed the selected MAs if new primary studies were added. We used random-effect model to calculate the overall effect.
Our search identified 120 SRs published in the last 5 years addressing acupuncture therapies across 12 therapeutic areas and 77 diseases and conditions. The SRs included 205 outcomes and involved 138 995 participants from 1402 RCTs. We constructed 77 evidence matrices, including 120 SRs and their included RCTs in the Epistemonikos database. Seventy-seven SRs represented the effect estimate of acupuncture therapies. Finally, we system summarised the areas of possible underutilisation of acupuncture therapies (high or moderate certainty evidence of large or moderate effects), and the areas of warranting additional investigation of acupuncture therapies (low or very low certainty evidence of moderate or large effects).
The evidence maps and overview of SRs on acupuncture therapies identified both therapies with substantial benefits that may require more assertive evidence dissemination and promising acupuncture therapies that require further investigation.