Objective: Considering the chronicity of osteoarthritis-associated pain, we aimed to evaluate long-term outcome differences between patients who received immediate or delayed acupuncture in addition to usual care, and to identify predictors for further acupuncture usage and a better long-term outcome.
Materials and Methods: The Acupuncture in Routine Care study was an open-label randomized pragmatic trial. As adjunct to usual care patients (>40 y, clinical and radiologic diagnosis of primary osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, pain duration >6 mo) received either immediate acupuncture in the first 3 months or delayed acupuncture in the subsequent 3 months. After 36 months 613 of 632 patients were available and asked to complete follow-up questionnaires. Primary outcome was the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC).
Results: A total of 500 (82%) of the contacted patients completed questionnaires. After 36 months the WOMAC Index did not differ significantly between groups (immediate acupuncture 36.53±26.19 vs. delayed acupuncture 38.24±25.54; P=0.420). Further acupuncture treatment during the follow-up period was reported by 202 patients and predicted by previous successful acupuncture treatment at baseline (odds ratio=2.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-3.9). Less osteoarthritis symptoms (WOMAC Index) after 36 months were predicted by being an acupuncture responder at 6 months (P<0.001), having higher school education (P=0.005), not wanting to use medications (P=0.016), and using additional therapies (P≤0.001 to P=0.025).
Discussion: No long-term outcome differences were found between patients who received immediate versus those who received delayed acupuncture treatment. Education level and additional therapies were identified as predictors for a better long-term outcome.