Study designs of evaluations included in the review
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were eligible for inclusion in the review.
Specific interventions included in the review
Studies comparing any acupuncture or electroacupuncture technique with a control were eligible for inclusion. The quality of the acupuncture interventions were assessed according to the standards for reporting interventions in controlled trials of acupuncture (STRICTA). Acupressure studies were excluded. The included interventions mainly followed standardised protocols, but some studies used techniques that were tailored to the patients' individual needs. The number (mean 5.7 points; range: 2 to 13) and type of acupuncture points used varied in the included studies, as did the frequency and modality of thetreatment used. Most studies used corporeal acupuncture, but two used both corporeal and auricular. Electrical stimulation was used in three studies, manual stimulation in three studies, and two studies failed to report the type of stimulation used. Control groups included waiting-list, antidepressant medication, sham acupuncture, inert placebo acupuncture, inert acupuncture points and massage. The number of treatments ranged from 10 to 36 over between 2 and 8 weeks.
Participants included in the review
Studies of patients with depression were eligible for inclusion. The included study populations were diverse, including: hospitalised stroke patients, depressed pregnant patients, depressed in-patients, depressed out-patients and community samples recruited through advertisements. Some studies included broad definitions of depression, while others had very specific diagnostic criteria for inclusion. Where specified, the diagnosis of depression was based on clinical interview and/or the HamiltonDepression Scale.
Outcomes assessed in the review
Eligible studies had to report depression as an outcome. Scales used to report the level of depression included the Hamilton Depression Scale for Depression, Hamilton Depression Scale for Anxiety, Clinical Global Impressions Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Center for Epidemiological Study of Depression and the Structured Clinical Interview for Depression.
How were decisions on the relevance of primary studies made?
The authors did not state how the papers were selected for review, or how many reviewers performed the selection.