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Treatment of Recalcitrant Chronic Rhinosinusitis with Integrative East-West Medicine

The UCLA Department of Head and Neck Surgery and UCLA Center for East-West Medicine (CEWM) have employed a whole systems research model to gather preliminary data which suggests that integrative East-West medicine has the potential to confer safe and effective treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis as well as overall improved quality of life.

The UCLA Department of Head and Neck Surgery and UCLA Center for East-West Medicine (CEWM) have found that treatment with integrative East-West medicine can improve sinonasal symptoms and overall quality of life for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis, that was unamenable to conventional western medical and surgical therapies alone. The results of this collaborative pilot study conducted at UCLA were recently published in the Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and indicated that integrative East-West medicine is safe and may help patients manage and ameliorate their symptoms. The eleven patients enrolled in this study were carefully selected based upon strict inclusion criteria, which contained the requirement that the individuals still suffered from clinically significant sinonasal symptoms even after the employment of maximal conventional medical therapies (antibiotics, topical nasal steroids, decongestants, mucolytics, and nasal saline irrigations) and, for many, additional surgical intervention. While these patients were unable to find satisfactory relief through these conventional therapies, after eight weeks of weekly acupuncture and counseling on dietary modification, lifestyle changes, and acupressure, there was a statistically significant reduced need to blow the nose, less runny noses, and decreased feelings of frustration, restlessness, or irritability and increased ability to concentrate. There were also trends toward improvement in most other measures, including reduced thick nasal discharge, sneezing and facial pain or pressure. According to Dr. Marilene Wang, the senior author of this study, “chronic sinusitis is a multifaceted disease and patients who suffer from it are affected by environmental factors, physical and psychological stressors, overall health, and lifestyle habits. Approaching chronic sinusitis with an integrative East-West medicine program allows us to incorporate a treatment protocol which impacts all of these factors in a positive way."

Despite the successful findings of this study, the researchers involved recognize the limitations of examining a small sample size and plan to do a larger, more comprehensive study with randomized controlled trials in the future. Nevertheless, this study represents a major step forward in the compilation of clinical studies demonstrating the safety and efficacy of integrative East-West medicine in not only helping to relieve sinonasal symptoms but also improving the overall health status of patients. In contrast to most studies about complementary and alternative medicine that focus on one particular treatment modality such as acupuncture through a reductionist model, this pilot study was unique in its employment of a whole systems research model. Furthermore, Dr. Malcolm Taw, a co-principal investigator in the study, highlights the value of the whole systems research model in providing for the analysis of “the use of multiple components of care that can lead to a synergistic therapeutic response which is greater than the sum of its individual treatments.” For more information, read more about the study at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22431875.

By Shannon Wongvibulsin, BS Candidate, UCLA 2014
UCLA Center East-West Medicine, Staff Writer