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Junk science study of Traumeel for bruising

PainSci » bibliography » Seeley et al 2006
Tags: random, homeopathy, surgery, medications, controversy, debunkery, treatment, self-treatment

One article on PainSci cites Seeley 2006: Does Arnica Gel Work for Pain?

PainSci commentary on Seeley 2006: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This is a tiny and poorly designed study, openly biased in favour of homeopathy, with a disingenuous conclusion that omits key results — such as patients actually experiencing more pain with Traumeel, not less — choosing instead to focus on an improvement in bruising so ridiculous slight that it could only be detected by instrumentation (not by patients or staff, but their own admission). I could hardly make up a worse study if I tried.

Surgeons at a cosmetic surgery clinic wanted to see if Traumeel would reduce post-operative bruising after nose jobs. A very small group of patients (just 29 of them, 14 receiving Traumeel, 15 getting a placebo, which is a small enough number that an abnormality in a single patient can significantly change the stats) were treated with either Traumeel or a placebo. Even dramatic results in such a study could easily be attributed to chance, and would have to be confirmed by a much larger study before we could even being to take them seriously.

Bruising was measured with instrumentation (which was unduly emphasized, as though the toys were half the point of the study). They found that there were “no subjective differences” noted by “either by the patients or by the professional staff," and their instrumentation barely detected a barely statistically significant difference in bruise size on only 1 day — a difference that was invisible to patients and staff, remember! Despite that “barely there” result, the authors conclude rather optimistically in favour of Traumeel.

This is precisely the sort of extreme sloppiness and disingenuousness you can generally expect from researchers “studying” homeopathy. This is 100% junk science, the worst of the worst.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVES: To design a model for performing reproducible, objective analyses of skin color changes and to apply this model to evaluate the efficacy of homeopathic Arnica montana as an antiecchymotic agent when taken perioperatively.

METHODS: Twenty-nine patients undergoing rhytidectomy at a tertiary care center were treated perioperatively with either homeopathic A. montana or placebo in a double-blind fashion. Postoperative photographs were analyzed using a novel computer model for color changes, and subjective assessments of postoperative ecchymosis were obtained.

RESULTS: No subjective differences were noted between the treatment group and the control group, either by the patients or by the professional staff. No objective difference in the degree of color change was found. Patients receiving homeopathic A. montana were found to have a smaller area of ecchymosis on postoperative days 1, 5, 7, and 10. These differences were statistically significant (P<.05) only on postoperative days 1 (P<.005) and 7 (P<.001).

CONCLUSIONS: This computer model provides an efficient, objective, and reproducible means with which to assess perioperative color changes, both in terms of area and degree. Patients taking perioperative homeopathic A. montana exhibited less ecchymosis, and that difference was statistically significant (P<.05) on 2 of the 4 postoperative data points evaluated.

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