A Comprehensive Analysis of Conventional Acupuncture and Pharmacological Approaches for Cardiac Arrhythmias: An Umbrella Review

J Innov Card Rhythm Manag. 2024 May 15;15(5):5876-5888. doi: 10.19102/icrm.2024.15055. eCollection 2024 May.


With a global incidence of approximately 3.4% and an annual mortality rate of 3.7 million, cardiac arrhythmias (CAs) are a pressing global health issue. Their increasing prevalence, especially among older people, is intensifying the challenge for health care systems worldwide. This study aims to compare the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture and pharmacological treatments for CAs, addressing critical gaps in understanding optimal therapeutic approaches. A search of PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane database of systematic reviews was performed to identify data compiled through September 2023 for this umbrella review. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) as the foundation for meta-analyses and peer-reviewed systematic reviews were the primary focus of the literature search. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation method was used to assess the overall certainty of the evidence, whereas AMSTAR 2 and the Cochrane Collaboration tool were used to evaluate the quality of the included reviews. Following a comprehensive review, three systematic analyses of 27 RCTs were integrated. Acupuncture led to a slightly greater reduction in the recurrence rate of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) compared to standard pharmaceutical therapy (risk ratio [RR], 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.88-1.27; I2 = 56%; P = .55), although the difference was not statistically significant. In contrast, acupuncture significantly outperformed pharmacological treatment in the context of ventricular premature beats (VPBs) (RR, 1.16; 95 CI, 1.08-1.25; I2 = 0%; P < .0001). The reduction in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF)/atrial flutter was increased with acupuncture, albeit without statistical significance (RR, 1.12; 95% CI, 0.88-1.42; I2 = 0%; P = .36). Acupuncture also led to a greater reduction in heart rate (HR) compared to pharmaceutical treatment despite notable heterogeneity and a lack of statistical significance (mean difference, -1.55; 95% CI, -41.37 to 38.28; I2 = 99%; P = .94). Adverse events were effectively managed, affirming the favorable safety profile of acupuncture. Our study suggests that acupuncture leads to a greater reduction in the recurrence rates of VPBs, AF, and atrial flutter but not significantly so in paroxysmal SVT or post-treatment HR. While promising for specific arrhythmias, the varying effectiveness of acupuncture underscores the need for further research and clinical assessment to determine its precise role and suitability in managing particular cardiac conditions.

Keywords: Acupuncture; anti-arrhythmic drugs; cardiac arrhythmias; comparative effectiveness; prevention.

Publication types

  • Review