Background: Dysphagia, or deglutition difficulty, is a common manifestation in patients with a stroke and its management is an important aspect of rehabilitation. Acupuncture, a complementary and alternative therapy, is the subject of growing public interest for treatment of stroke.
Objective: A meta-analysis was performed to study the effect of acupuncture for treatment of dysphagia in patients affected by a stroke.
Methods: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing acupuncture treatment with non-acupuncture treatment of dysphagia in patients with a stroke were identified from the databases of PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library and CBM disc (China Biological Medicine Database). Eligible investigations were included and data on the effectiveness of acupuncture were extracted and synthesised by meta-analysis using RevMan 5.1.4. Results were expressed as OR for dichotomous data; 95% CIs were also calculated.
Results: Seventy-two RCTs (3208 patients in the treatment group and 2926 patients in the control group) were identified. Details of randomisation and blinding were not reported and information on withdrawals and dropouts was missing in most of included reports. Meta-analysis showed that the effectiveness of treatment in the group receiving acupuncture was higher than that in the non-acupuncture group (OR=5.17, 95% CI 4.18 to 6.38; p<0.00001). However, the study quality was generally low and of insufficient quality to make recommendations about using acupuncture in the rehabilitation of patients with dysphagia due to stroke.
Conclusions: Acupuncture might be beneficial in the rehabilitation of patients with dysphagia caused by stroke, and the evidence justifies future high-quality studies.