Twenty-six RCTs were included in the review (n=796). Twenty trials had a Jadad score of 2 or less. Major limitations included poor descriptions of randomisation and blinding procedures, unblinded outcome assessors, poor monitoring of compliance and high percentage of loss to follow-up. A sample size of less than 30 was reported in half of the studies.
Twelve RCTs used a control group with a conventional therapy or attention placebo and 14 compared qigong to a control group that received no treatment. In general, qigong participants had better outcomes when compared to no intervention and trials where control participants received a conventional therapy or attention placebo showed inconsistent results. Nine trials found qigong to be superior to conventional therapy or attention placebo and three trials suggested similar effects.
Statistically significant results when compared to control groups were observed for 12 of 17 outcome parameters related to immune cell counts, blood lipids, blood pressure, cardiac function, ventilatory function, pain and mood. Qigong resulted in better outcomes for white blood counts, lymphocytes, stroke volume, peak early transmitral filling velocity (VE), peak late transmitral filling velocity (VA), difference between VE and VA, forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume at first second, total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and depressive mood scores. No statistically significant results were noted for natural killer cells, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, triglyceride and pain as assessed by SF-36 (Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey).