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Stroke. 2002 Nov;33(11):2604-19.

Does acupuncture improve motor recovery after stroke? A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

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Department of Medicine and Geriatrics, Shatin Hospital, N.T. Hong Kong.



Acupuncture may be a promising treatment for poststroke paralysis. We conducted a meta-analysis, assessing the efficacy of acupuncture with and without stroke rehabilitation.


We identified randomized trials comparing acupuncture with no acupuncture within 6 months of stroke by searching MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and Chinese medical literature databases. Two reviewers independently extracted data on study characteristics, patient characteristics, and impairment and disability outcomes. The outcome measures were internationally recognized or nationally approved. The fixed- and random-effects models were used to combine effect size and odds ratio across studies.


Fourteen trials with 1213 patients met all the inclusion criteria. For the comparison of acupuncture with no acupuncture in addition to stroke rehabilitation, the pooled random-effects estimates of the change in motor impairment and disability were 0.06 (95% CI, -0.12 to 0.24) and 0.49 (95% CI, 0.03 to 0.96), respectively, with heterogeneity in disability measures (P=0.05, chi(2) test). For the comparison of real with sham acupuncture, the pooled random-effects estimate of the change in disability was 0.07 (95% CI, -0.34 to 0.48). For the comparison of acupuncture with no acupuncture without stroke rehabilitation, the pooled random-effects estimate of the change in motor impairment was 0.46 (95% CI, -0.20 to 1.12), and the pooled random-effects odds ratio for disability was 12.5 (95% CI, 4.3 to 36.2), with no statistically significant heterogeneity (P=0.97 and P=0.12, respectively, chi(2) test), but the study quality was poor.


This meta-analysis suggests that with stroke rehabilitation, acupuncture has no additional effect on motor recovery but has a small positive effect on disability, which may be due to a true placebo effect and varied study quality. The efficacy of acupuncture without stroke rehabilitation remains uncertain, mainly because of the poor quality of such studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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