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Laser acupuncture for depression: A randomised double blind controlled trial using low intensity laser intervention




Trials of acupuncture for the treatment of depression have produced mixed results. We examined the effectiveness of laser acupuncture compared with placebo acupuncture for the treatment of major depression.


A randomised, double blinded, placebo controlled trial was conducted in Sydney, Australia. Participants aged 18-50 years with DSM-IV major depressive disorder were eligible to join the study. Forty-seven participants were randomised to receive laser acupuncture or placebo laser at acupoints LR14, CV14, LR8, HT7 and KI3. The intervention was administered twice a week for 4 weeks and once a week for another four weeks, for a total of 12 sessions. The primary outcome assessed the change in severity of depression using the Hamilton-Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), and secondary outcomes assessed the change in severity of depression using the Quick Inventory for Depression-Self Reporting (QID-SR), the Quick Inventory for Depression-Clinician (QIDS-CL), with outcomes assessed at eight weeks. The treatment response (greater than 50% improvement in HAM-D) and remission (HAM-D<8) were analysed.


At eight weeks participants showed greater improvement in the active laser group on the primary and clinician-rated secondary outcome measures (HAM-D (mean 9.28 (SD 6.55) vs. mean 14.14 (SD 4.78 p<0.001); QIDS-CL (mean 8.12 (SD 6.61 versus 12.68 (mean SD 3.77)) p<0.001). The self-report QIDS-SR scores improved in both groups but did not differ significantly between the groups. In the active laser group, QIDS-SR scores remained significantly lower than baseline at 3 months follow-up. Response rates (active laser, placebo laser) on ITT (intention to treat) analyses were 72.0% and 18.2% (p<0.001), respectively. Remission rates on ITT analyses (active laser, placebo laser) were 56.0% and 4.5% (p<0.001). Transient fatigue was the only adverse effect reported.


There was no follow-up for the placebo group at one and 3 months.


Laser acupuncture showed a clinically and statistically significant benefit with reducing symptoms of depression on objective measures.

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