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Clinical Effects of Scalp Electrical Acupuncture in Stroke: A Sham-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial

To cite this article:
Wu Tu Hsing, Marta Imamura, Kayleen Weaver, Felipe Fregni, and Raymundo S. Azevedo Neto. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 2012, 18(4): 341-346. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0131.

Published in Volume: 18 Issue 4: April 19, 2012
Online Ahead of Print: April 10, 2012

Wu Tu Hsing, MD, PhD,1 Marta Imamura, MD, PhD,2 Kayleen Weaver, BA,3 Felipe Fregni, MD, PhD,3,4 and Raymundo S. Azevedo Neto, MD, PhD1
1Department of Pathology, University of São Paulo School of Medicine, São Paulo, Brazil.
2Division of Physical Medicine, Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, University of São Paulo School of Medicine, São Paulo, Brazil.
3Laboratory of Neuromodulation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
4Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
Address correspondence to:
Wu Tu Hsing, MD, PhD
Department of Pathology

University of São Paulo School of Medicine

Avenida Dr. Arnaldo, 455 sala 1349
01246-903 São Paulo, S.P.



Objectives: The majority of individuals who survive a stroke are disabled because of persisting neurological impairments. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of subcutaneous electrical stimulation of the scalp in spontaneous functional recovery of patients with chronic ischemic stroke, by evaluating clinical, neurological, and functional findings.

Subjects and methods: Sixty-two (62) subjects who were at least 18 months postdiagnosis of ischemic stroke were randomized to receive 10 sessions of placebo or active low-frequency electrical stimulation (2/100 Hz) using subcutaneous acupuncture needles over the scalp. Functional and neurological evaluations were indexed by the Barthel, Rankin, and National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS).

Results: Results show that there was a significant difference in functional improvement between the sham and active group as indexed by NIHSS scale. The active group had a larger functional improvement after 10 sessions of scalp electrical acupuncture. The other two functional scales (Rankin and Barthel) failed to show significant differences between the two treatment groups.

Conclusions: These results support further testing of scalp electrical acupuncture for the treatment of stroke as well further mechanistic studies to understand mechanisms associated with the observed improvement. Further studies need to consider longer follow-up assessments to investigate potential functional changes associated with electrical acupuncture.

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