Placebo by proxy expectations toward acupuncture change over time: A survey comparing parental expectations to acupuncture pre- and postoperatively
Methods: Two hundred and eighty-two parents completed per- and 24 h postoperatively a survey on their expectancy to acupuncture treatment for alleviation of postoperative vomiting in children. The survey was embedded in a randomised controlled trial.
Results: Parental expectancy to acupuncture treatment changed over time. The changes were predicted by several variables such as children’s gender, parents’ age and education, previous experiences, and assignment to treatment group. The strongest predictor was parental anxiety to their child undergoing surgery. Further, the change of parental expectancy was correlated with postoperative vomiting.
Conclusions: Anxious parents are prone to change their expectancy in a positive direction during the treatment period, which in turn may improve treatment outcome. Acupuncture therapists in clinical practice should pay a special attention to the potential that lies here, and acknowledge parental anxiety as a possible facilitator, and not a barrier, to elicit placebo by proxy effects. Further research to expand the findings of the present study into other treatments is in order. Future research should also provide more knowledge about how parental expectancy changes over time, and how different factors predict and produce change of parental expectancy.