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To assess the efficacy of electrical acupuncture in the rehabilitation of patients with hemiplegia in stroke, we randomized 128 patients within 2 wk of stroke onset to receive either comprehensive rehabilitation plus electrical acupuncture (n = 59) or comprehensive rehabilitation only (n = 59). Electrical acupuncture was administered by electrical stimulation of acupuncture points through adhesive surface electrodes five times per week. Neurological status (Brunnstrom's stage) and the Chinese version of the Functional Independence Measure were assessed before treatment and at discharge. Patients treated with electrical acupuncture had a shorter duration of hospital stay for rehabilitation and better neurological and functional outcomes than the control group had, with a significant difference in scores for self-care and locomotion (P = 0.02). This result did not postulate the previous study that acupuncture therapy for stroke patients should depend on needle manual and "de qi" response. We suggest that electrical acupuncture through adhesive surface electrodes in conjunction with current optimal rehabilitation programs is a convenient and effective therapy for stroke patients.