Introduction: In traditional Chinese medicine, stimulation of the Neiguan spot has been utilized to treat palpitations. We evaluated whether acupuncture might prevent or reduce the rate of arrhythmia recurrences in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation (AF).
Methods and results: We studied 80 patients with persistent AF after restoring sinus rhythm with electrical cardioversion. Twenty-six subjects who were already on amiodarone treatment constituted the AMIO reference group. The remaining patients were randomly allocated to receive acupuncture (ACU group, n = 17), sham acupuncture (ACU-sham group, n = 13), or neither acupuncture nor antiarrhythmic therapy (CONTROL group, n = 24). Patients in the ACU and ACU-sham groups attended 10 acupuncture sessions on a once-a-week basis. Only in the former group the Neiguan, Shenmen, and Xinshu spots were punctured. During a 12-month follow-up, AF recurred in 35 patients. Cumulative AF recurrence rates in the AMIO, ACU, ACU-sham, and CONTROL patients were 27%, 35%, 69%, and 54%, respectively (P = 0.0075, log-rank test). Ejection fraction (P = 0.0005), hypertension (0.0293), and left atrial diameter (P = 0.0361) were also significantly associated with AF recurrence. Compared with AMIO group, recurrence rate was similar in ACU patients (hazard ratio: 1.15, 95% CI: 0.38-3.49; P = 0.801) but significantly higher in ACU-sham and CONTROL patients (3.77, 1.39-10; P = 0.009 and 3.15, 1.23-8.06; P = 0.017, respectively) after adjustment for ejection fraction, hypertension, and left atrial diameter using Cox modeling.
Conclusion: Our data indicate that acupuncture treatment prevents arrhythmic recurrences after cardioversion in patients with persistent AF. This minimally invasive procedure was safe and well tolerated.
© 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.