Research: WU and colleagues

Listed in Issue 128


WU and colleagues have conducted a systematic review of acupuncture in stroke rehabilitation.


Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Western society; in China it is the second most common cause of death in cities. It is also a main cause of adult disability. Acupuncture for stroke has been used in China for hundreds of years and is increasingly practised in some Western countries. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for patients with stroke in the subacute or chronic stage.


Relevant databases were searched electronically. In addition, 4 Chinese journals were handsearched and reference lists of all papers identified were checked for further trials. Truly randomized clinical trials among patients with stroke, in the subacute or chronic stage, which compared acupuncture involving needling with either placebo acupuncture, sham acupuncture or no acupuncture, were included.


5 trials (368 patients) met the inclusion criteria. Methodological quality was considered inadequate in all trials. Although the overall estimate from 4 trials suggested the odds of improvement in global neurological deficit was higher in the acupuncture group compared with the control group (odds ratio 6.55), this estimate may not be reliable since there was substantial heterogeneity. One trial showed no significant improvement of motor function between the real acupuncture group and the sham acupuncture group (odds ratio 9.00), but the confidence interval was wide and included clinically significant effects in both directions.


Currently there is no clear evidence on the effects of acupuncture on subacute or chronic stroke. Large methodologically sound trials are required.


Wu H, Tang J, Lin X, Lau J, Leung P, Woo J, Li Y. Acupuncture for stroke rehabilitation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 3:CD004131, 2006.

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