Date of Award


Degree Type

Selective Evidence-Based Medicine Review

Degree Name

Master of Science in Health Sciences - Physician Assistant


Physician Assistant Studies

Department Chair

John Cavenagh, MBA, PhD, PA-C


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this selective EBM review is to determine whether or not stimulating acupoints on the skin in addition to standard medication is more effective for the improvement of breathlessness in ambulatory patients with COPD over the age of 60 than standard medication alone.

STUDY DESIGN: Review of three randomized controlled trials published in 2008, 2010, and 2012; selection was based on their relevance to the clinical question and if they contained patient oriented outcomes.

DATA SOURCES: Three peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials comparing the addition of acupuncture/Acu-Tens to standard treatment and standard treatment alone were found on PubMed.

OUTCOME(S) MEASURED: Each trial assessed the effect of skin stimulation by acupuncture and/or Acu-Tens on decreasing the amount of breathlessness that patients with COPD experience by obtaining lung function or utilizing a 6-minute walk test after the skin stimulation and evaluating the findings from a patient’s perspective via Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) or a 10- point Borg category ratio scale.

RESULTS: Two studies demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in breathlessness achieved with the addition of acupuncture/Acu-Tens to standard COPD therapy versus standard therapy alone. The third study failed to show improvement in breathlessness; it only demonstrated an improvement in walk distance.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on the three trials, the use of acupuncture/Acu-Tens is inconclusive when determining improved breathlessness in patients over the age of 60 with COPD.