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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2018, Article ID 1057539, 21 pages
Review Article

The Efficacy and Safety of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

1Department of Clinical Korean Medicine, Graduate School, Kyung Hee University, Kyung Hee Dae-ro 26, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 02447, Republic of Korea
2Department of Korean Pediatrics, Hospital of Korean Medicine, Pusan National University, Geumo-ro 20, Mulgeum-eup, Yangsan-si, Gyeongsangnam-do 50612, Republic of Korea
3Department of Pediatrics, College of Korean Medicine, Hospital of Semyung University, St. Sangbang 4-63, Chungju City, Chungcheongbuk-do 27429, Republic of Korea
4Department of Neuropsychiatry, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Kyung Hee Dae-ro 26, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 02447, Republic of Korea

Correspondence should be addressed to Gyu Tae Chang;

Received 25 July 2017; Revised 13 November 2017; Accepted 29 November 2017; Published 11 January 2018

Academic Editor: Deborah A. Kennedy

Copyright © 2018 Boram Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objectives. We aimed to summarize and critically evaluate the available evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Methods. We searched 13 databases for studies published up to December 2016. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the efficacy of acupuncture for children with ASD were included. Outcome measures were the overall scores on scales evaluating the core symptoms of ASD and the scores for each symptom, such as social communication ability and skills, stereotypies, language ability, and cognitive function. Effect sizes were presented as mean differences (MD). Results. Twenty-seven RCTs with 1736 participants were included. Acupuncture complementary to behavioral and educational intervention significantly decreased the overall scores on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) (MD −8.10, 95% CI −12.80 to −3.40) and the Autism Behavior Checklist (MD −8.92, 95% CI −11.29 to −6.54); however, it was unclear which of the ASD symptoms improved. Acupuncture as a monotherapy also reduced the overall CARS score. The reported adverse events were acceptable. Conclusions. This review suggests that acupuncture may be effective and safe for pediatric ASD. However, it is not conclusive due to the heterogeneity of the acupuncture treatment methods used in the studies.