The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point

Using acupuncture to prevent atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (aka A-fib) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm. It involves the 2 upper chambers of the heart.

Researchers at the Universita degli Studi di Milano, in Italy, evaluated whether acupuncture might prevent or reduce the rate of arrhythmia recurrences in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation.

First, the details.

  • The researchers studied 80 patients with persistent atrial fibrillation after restoring their normal sinus rhythm with electrical cardioversion — a procedure in which an electric current is used to reset the heart to a normal rhythm.
  • The patients were assigned to a treatment group.
    • 26 people who were already taking amiodarone (Cordarone) treatment served as the reference group.
    • 17 were treated with acupuncture for 10 sessions once weekly (Neiguan, Shenmen, and Xinshu acupoints).
    • 13 were treated with sham acupuncture for 10 sessions once weekly.
    • A control group of 24 patients received neither acupuncture nor antiarrhythmic therapy.
  • The patients were evaluated a year later.

And, the results.

  • 35 patients experienced a recurrence of atrial fibrillation.
  • Recurrence rates were as follows: amiodarone (27%), acupuncture (35%), sham acupuncture (69%), and control (53%).
  • Compared with amiodarone, recurrence rate was similar in acupuncture patients but significantly higher in sham acupuncture and control patients after adjustment for ejection fraction, hypertension, and left atrial diameter.
  • Ejection fraction (measurement of the heart’s efficiency), high blood pressure, and left atrial diameter (predictor of first cardiovascular events in middle-aged and elderly adults) were also significantly associated with atrial fibrillation recurrence.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Acupuncture treatment prevents arrhythmic recurrences after cardioversion in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation. This minimally invasive procedure was safe and well tolerated.

A PubMed search revealed no other studies of acupuncture to prevent recurrence of atrial fibrillation.

However, success with acupuncture to convert atrial fibrillation and flutter to a normal heart rhythm was reported in 1 study.

9/5/10 22:26 JR

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