Evaluating the efficacy of acupuncture in defined aspects of stroke recovery

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the efficacy of acupuncture on stroke recovery compared to an inert placebo.

Design

Placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical trial.

Setting

Post-stroke rehabilitation wards in five NHS hospitals in the UK.

Subjects

Patients between 4 and 10 days after their first stroke.

Interventions and outcome measures

The patients received 12 acupuncture or placebo treatments over four weeks. Acupuncture with electrical stimulation was compared with mock TENS, and assessments continued for 12 months after entry. Primary outcome was the Barthel Index (BI). Secondary outcomes were muscle power, Motricity Index (MI), mood, Nottingham Health Profile (NHP) and treatment credibility.

Results

92 patients completed data sets. Data were analysed using both t tests and a structural equation based on longitudinal analysis of both BI and MI, using generalised estimating equations with an exchangeable correlation structure. While both acupuncture and placebo (mock TENS) appeared to have had an equal effect on stroke recovery, there is no significant difference between the two interventions at 12 (p = 0.737, 95 % CI -2.00 to 2.81) and 52 weeks (p = 0.371, 95 % CI -3.48 to1.32). An apparently accelerated improvement in the MI scores in the acupuncture group at 3 weeks (p = 0.009, 95 % CI 1.55 to 10.77) is interesting.

Conclusions

Acupuncture did not demonstrate specific efficacy over placebo and both groups did as well as normally expected with this condition.

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