Acupuncture in Atrial Fibrillation Combined With Conventional Drugs

In a meta-analysis co-led by Yibing Li, Jinming Song, and Bangqi Wu, researchers examined the effects of acupuncture therapy on sinus rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation who were using conventional drugs. Their report, published in the European Journal of Medical Research, showed that “the combination of pharmacological resuscitation with acupuncture significantly improved the conversion of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation compared to pharmacological resuscitation only.”

Researchers identified and enrolled 11 randomized controlled trials on acupuncture that included patients with atrial fibrillation. The results were published in various online databases by May 15, 2021. The review’s primary outcome was the number of patients who converted successfully.

Conventional Drugs and Acupuncture in Atrial Fibrillation Data

According to the researchers, acupuncture significantly and effectively benefitted patients with atrial fibrillation in the studies (risk ratio [RR], 1.208; 95% CI, 1.123-1.298; P<.001). In analyses of persistent and paroxysmal atria fibrillation and variable acupuncture timing subgroups, the addition of acupuncture was not statistically significant in the treatment of persistent atrial fibrillation compared with the control group (RR, 1.147; 95% CI, 0.811-1.623; P=.147).

Notably, the combination of acupuncture was more effective in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (RR, 1.148; 95% CI, 1.064-1.239; P<.001). The researchers observed that “the most significant benefit was achieved with an acupuncture duration of <20 minutes” (RR, 1.510; 95% CI, 1.25-1.82).

The meta-analysis was limited by the heterogeneity of persistent atrial fibrillation in the pooled cohort, a small number of available papers, unreliable results from random-effects models, unclear descriptions of acupuncture points, and methodologies that weren’t comprehensive.

Regardless, the investigators deemed that “the combination of acupuncture could be considered in clinical practice for the resuscitation of patients with atrial fibrillation.” They also acknowledged that larger, more rigorous trials are needed to confirm their findings.

Find more recent studies on the Atrial Fibrillation Knowledge Hub