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09-08-2010 | Cardiology | Article

Acupuncture may benefit HF patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: Acupuncture may be an additional way to improve exercise tolerance in patients with heart failure (HF), research suggests.

In a pilot study, German researchers found that acupuncture resulted in improved submaximal exercise capacity compared with a sham procedure in patients with stable HF receiving optimized HF medication.

"As no serious adverse events occurred, this acupuncture treatment protocol might become a safe and beneficial adjunctive treatment in [HF]," they report in the journal Heart.

The team, from University Hospital of Heidelberg, randomly assigned 17 patients with HF (New York Heart Association class II-III, ejection fraction <40%) to undergo 10 sessions of either verum acupuncture or placebo acupuncture.

Verum acupuncture involved insertion of needles at six bilateral, and one medial, acupoints that were chosen according to traditional Chinese medicine for HF, and their ability to alter autonomic function.

The placebo group received simulated acupuncture at the same points using a blunted, telescopic needle. Both interventions were performed by trained acupuncturists, and patients and physicians were blinded to the allocation.

Johannes Backs and co-workers report that patients who underwent verum acupuncture showed a "remarkable," significant increase in ambulated 6-minute walk distance (6MWD) after the 10 sessions, of 32 meters on average, whereas those in the placebo group showed an average 1-m decrease, representing a significant between-group difference (p=0.036).

In line with this finding, patients' ventilatory efficiency and post-exercise recovery in a symptom-limited exercise test were improved after the real, but not the sham, acupuncture.

Heart rate variability increased after acupuncture but decreased after the placebo treatment, while the general health and body pain scores of the Short Form-36 quality-of-life questionnaire tended to be improved after acupuncture but not placebo.

The researchers say that further research is needed to determine whether the improvement in 6MWD, known to be a prognostic marker, translates into reduced mortality, and also to understand the beneficial mechanisms of acupuncture - in particular, its effects on neurohormonal balance and production of inflammatory cytokines.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price

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