Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a clinical symptom due to a number of factors, including Sjögren syndrome and radiation treatment to the head and neck region. It has been reported that acupuncture increases the salivary flow rate (SFR) in healthy subjects and in patients with xerostomia. A prognostic tool that would allow the care provider to identify patients who may respond to acupuncture treatment will aid in early intervention and thus lead to normalized SFR or relief of symptoms.
To determine the prognostic value of a test using pilocarpine chloride to identify those patients with xerostomia who may achieve a long-term increase in SFR in response to acupuncture.
Cohort clinical study of 10 months' duration.
School of dentistry in a large, urban, research institute.
Thirty-two consecutive patients with xerostomia due to radiation treatment (n=21) or Sjögren syndrome (n=11).
Salivary flow rates for unstimulated whole saliva and paraffin-chewing stimulated whole saliva were measured before and after the administration of individualized doses of pilocarpine. All patients were then given 24 acupuncture treatments and followed up at 1 and 6 months. The effects of acupuncture treatment on SFR were recorded and response compared with the results of the pilocarpine test.
Main Outcome Measures
Sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive value of the pilocarpine test based on changes in SFR, defined as a 20% increase or greater, following acupuncture treatment, compared with response to the pilocarpine test.
At the 1-month follow-up, 18 (72%) of 25 patients with a positive pilocarpine test result had defined significant changes in SFR; 4 (67%) of 6 patients with a negative pilocarpine test result had an unchanged SFR. At this point, the sensitivity of the pilocarpine test was 0.90 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.68-0.99) and the specificity was 0.36 (95% CI, 0.11-0.69). The positive predictive value was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.51-0.88), and the negative predictive value was 0.67 (95% CI, 0.22-0.96). At the 6-month follow-up, 17 (74%) of 23 patients with a positive pilocarpine test result had defined significant changes in SFR; 3 (60%) of 5 patients with a negative pilocarpine test result had an unchanged SFR. At this point, the sensitivity of the pilocarpine test was 0.89 (95% CI, 0.67-0.99), and the specificity was 0.33 (95% CI, 0.07-0.70). The positive predictive value was 0.74 (95% CI, 0.52-0.90), and the negative predictive value was 0.60 (95% CI, 0.15-0.95).
The pilocarpine test was found to have a high sensitivity and good positive predictive value in identifying patients who may respond to acupuncture for the treatment of xerostomia.