Auricular acupuncture as an adjunct for pain management during first trimester abortion: a randomized, double-blinded, three arm trial

Chioma Ndubisi, Antoinette Danvers, Melanie A. Gold, Lisa Morrow, Carolyn L. Westhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: To assess pain-management using auricular acupuncture as an adjunct to ibuprofen and paracervical block during first trimester uterine aspiration, and to assess auricular acupuncture's effect on anxiety. Study design: This randomized, double-blinded, three-arm trial enrolled women undergoing uterine aspiration for spontaneous or induced abortion. Study participants were randomized 1:1:1 to receive auricular acupuncture, placebo, or usual care alone. Participants in all groups received ibuprofen and paracervical block (usual care). The main outcome was maximum pain reported at the end of the procedure measured using a Visual Analog Scale; we compared those receiving auricular acupuncture to those receiving usual care alone. We also compared auricular acupuncture to placebo and placebo to usual care alone. Finally, we compared the maximum anxiety scores between participants randomized to auricular acupuncture, placebo, and usual care alone. Results: We randomized 153 women over 9 months, and analyzed 52 participants in the auricular acupuncture group, 49 in the placebo group, and 49 in the usual care group. The groups had similar baseline characteristics. After uterine aspiration, participants reported median maximum pain scores as follows: auricular acupuncture 39.5 (interquartile range (IQR) 11, 64.5), placebo 70.0 (IQR 40.5, 84), and usual care alone 71.0 (IQR 32, 91.5) (p<0.01). In pairwise comparisons, the median maximum pain score after auricular acupuncture was lower than placebo and usual-care groups (p<0.01 for both). Post-procedure median anxiety scores were 11.5, 31.0 and 44.0, respectively (p=.01). Conclusions: Women undergoing first trimester uterine aspiration assigned to auricular acupuncture reported substantially less pain and anxiety than women assigned to placebo or usual care. Implications: Auricular acupuncture may be a useful adjunct to ibuprofen and paracervical block during first trimester uterine aspiration. This approach to managing pain and anxiety could avoid the operational complexities and expenses of sedation and opioid use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-147
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019



  • Abortion
  • Anxiety
  • Auricular acupuncture
  • Pain
  • Randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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