Comparative Effectiveness of Acupuncture and Antiarrhythmic Drugs for the Prevention of Cardiac Arrhythmias: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Front Physiol. 2017 Jun 8;8:358. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00358. eCollection 2017.


Introduction and Objectives: This study was designed to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for arrhythmia compared to existing drug therapy. Methods: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were identified through searches of the MEDLINE, CNKI, Embase, and Cochrane databases (1970 through 2016) and hand searches of cross-references from original articles and reviews. Clinical trials that randomized arrhythmia patients to acupuncture therapy vs. conventional drugs, sham acupuncture, or bed rest were included for analysis. Results: A total of 13 trials with 797 patients met the criteria for analysis. The results of the meta-analysis showed no statistically significant difference between acupuncture and conventional treatment for paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) (n = 203; RR, 1.18; 95% CI 0.78-1.79; I2 = 80%; P = 0.44). However, in the ventricular premature beat (VPB) group, it showed a significant benefit of acupuncture plus oral administration of anti-arrhythmic drug (AAD) on response rates compared with the oral administration of AAD (n = 286; RR, 1.15; 95% CI 1.05-1.27; I2 = 0%; P = 0.002). Finally, when compared with the sinus tachycardia (ST) cases without any treatment, acupuncture has benefited these patients (n = 120; MD, 18.80, 95% CI 12.68-24.92; I2 = 81%; P < 0.00001). Conclusions: In summary, our meta-analysis demonstrates that clinical efficacy of acupuncture is not less than AAD for PSVT. Furthermore, in sub-group analysis, acupuncture with or without AAD, shows a clear benefit in treating VPB and ST. However, more definitive RCTs are warranted to guide clinical practice.

Keywords: acupuncture; antiarrhythmic drug; arrhythmias; meta-analysis; randomized controlled trials.