Acupuncture at the Sphenopalatine Ganglion in the Treatment of Moderate-to-severe Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis

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    Guang'anmen Hospital of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences
Updated on 4 October 2022


Allergic rhinitis (AR) is an immunoglobulin E-mediated inflammatory disease1 caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to an allergen, affecting 100 million people in Europe 2and 400 million of the global population.The etiology of AR is multifactorial, resulting primarily from genetic predisposition, immunological response, and environmental pollutants.AR traditionally has been classified as seasonal (SAR) or perennial (PAR) depending on the causes and duration of symptoms. Some patients with AR prefer complementary and alternative medicine for their symptoms, with nearly 20% receiving acupuncture. According to the updated practice parameter of rhinitis in 2020, the use of acupuncture for the treatment of AR was not recommended due to a lack of well-controlled studies.

The sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), located under a thin (1-2 mm) layer of mucosa in the pterygopalatine fossa, consists of sensory fibers that innervate the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, and palate.Several studies have reported the benefit of SPG stimulation in chronic cluster headache and acute ischaemic stroke. Compared with traditional acupoints selected on basis of traditional meridian theory, acupuncture at SPG(inserting a needle through SPG acupoint (near ST7, Xiaguan) to reach and directly stimulate the SPG) may help patients ameliorate nasal symptoms immediately and improve quality of life by increasing sympathetic nerve excitability, but the evidence is inconclusive.

We have designed this three-armed, randomized trial to investigate the efficacy and safety of acupuncture at SPG for the treatment of SAR. We hypothesize that acupuncture at SPG plus rescue medication is superior to sham acupuncture plus RM and RM alone in the treatment of SAR.

Condition seasonal allergy, hayfever, Hay fever, pollen allergy
Treatment Acupuncture group, Placebo acupuncture group, Rescue medication group
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04815668
SponsorGuang'anmen Hospital of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences
Last Modified on4 October 2022


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Inclusion Criteria

Age 18 years and 75 years
History of moderate to severe SAR symptoms (Visual analog scale(VAS) >50 mm, range, 0 cm[not at all bothersome] to 100 mm[extremely bothersome]) for more than 4 days/weeks, and more than 4 consecutive weeks with at least two years' duration
Positive skin prick test to grass and birch pollen or/and serum-specific IgE test
Ability to complete the medical information form and sign a written informed consent

Exclusion Criteria

History or current evidence of perennial allergic rhinitis, acute sinusitis, allergic asthma, pneumonia; autoimmune disorders, or severe chronic inflammatory diseases
History of nasal rhinopolypus or abnormalities
Intake of antihistamines, anticholinergics, corticosteroids, decongestants, or antibiotics during the 1 month prior to beginning the study
History of systemically administered corticosteroids within 6 months or specific immunotherapy, allergy desensitization therapy within 1 year before enrollment
Serious uncontrolled blood coagulation disorder, cardiovascular disorder, severe hepatic/renal insufficiency or mental disorder
Pregnancy or planning for pregnancy
Known allergy, or contraindication to rescue medication or related drugs
Known phobia to acupuncture or having received acupuncture treatment, or sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation or other complementary and alternative medicine within 1 months prior to enrollment
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