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Consistency of Dry-Needling Interventions Across High-Quality Randomized Trials: A Critical Systematic Exploration of Intervention Reporting and Fidelity

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2021 Sep;44(7):546-557. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2021.12.004.


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to systematically explore the reporting of trigger-point dry needling (DN) in high-quality randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and to evaluate those trials’ intervention fidelity.

METHODS: A focused systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted. PubMed and Cochrane databases were searched for systematic reviews focusing on DN, published from January 2014 to January 2019. Randomized clinical trials with a low risk of bias were identified and their reported intervention data extracted. Dry-needling interventions were categorized according to common technique elements, and the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) was used to appraise their intervention fidelity.

RESULTS: Fifteen systematic reviews were identified, and from these we extracted data from 26 RCTs. Twelve unique technique descriptors were identified, and 8 technique archetype categories were distinguishable, based on whether a local twitch response defined the start of the intervention, whether continuous needle insertion and withdrawal was used, and what criteria determined the cessation of needling. The median number of TIDieR items reported was 8.5 out of 12. Explicit procedure reporting was uncommon for intervention tailoring (38%) and rare for intervention mode (19%) and modifications (7%).

CONCLUSION: Across the RCTs included in this review, substantial heterogeneity in the choice and reporting of DN was evident. In particular, systematic underreporting of intervention tailoring, mode clarification, and procedure modification undermined intervention fidelity. The development and adoption of standardized intervention guidelines is recommended to enhance uniform and nuanced reporting of DN interventions.

PMID:35282856 | DOI:10.1016/j.jmpt.2021.12.004


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