Background: Psychological interventions may be valuable in atopic dermatitis. We systematically reviewed and carried out a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of psychological interventions. Methods: Electronic searches and manual journal searches were carried out. Two coders independently coded study designs, participants, treatments and outcome characteristics of the studies meeting the selection criteria. Results: Eight journal articles published between 1986 and 2006 were included. Eight types of intervention were tested: aromatherapy, autogenic training, brief dynamic psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, dermatological education and cognitive-behavioral therapy, habit reversal behavioral therapy, a stress management program, and structured educational programs. Effect sizes were computed as correlation coefficient (r), and random effects models were used in the analysis. For eczema severity, the average effect size for the 8 trials including 8 interventions was -0.367 [χ2(1) = 7.452, p = 0.006; 95% CI -0.579 to -0.108]. The average effect sizes on itching intensity (5 trials with 5 interventions) and scratching (5 trials with 4 interventions) were -0.805 [χ2(1) = 4.719, p = 0.030; 95% CI -0.971 to -0.108] and -0.620 [χ2(1) = 24.24, p < 0.0001; 95% CI -0.767 to -0.410], respectively. Conclusions: Although the present meta-analysis revealed that psychological interventions had a significant ameliorating effect on eczema severity, itching intensity and scratching in atopic dermatitis patients, a definite conclusion about their effectiveness seems premature. Accordingly, future studies should involve more sophisticated methodologies, use established measures of outcome variables, adjust for possible confounders between the intervention and control groups, and provide sufficient data to calculate the effect sizes for future meta-analyses.
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