Acupuncture the practice of piercing the skin with needles at specific points to treat illness or relieve pain dramatically reduced sympathetic nerve activity among heart failure patients. The sympathetic nervous system regulates involuntary movements such as heartbeat and blood pressure. Over-activation of sympathetic nerves is common in heart failure patients and associated with a poor prognosis because it forces the weakened heart to work harder and predisposes the heart to potentially lethal heart rhythms.
There is an ever-increasing interest in alternative medicine. But until now, no one had looked at acupunctures effect on the very sickest heart failure patients. Our research represents a promising first step, but more study is definitely needed, says lead author Holly R. Middlekauff, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Advanced heart failure patients often have two or three times more sympathetic nerve activity than normal individuals, she says. It has been shown that the greater this activity is, the worse the outlook for the patient, so reducing it could be crucial.
In the first controlled clinical trial of its kind, the researchers divided 14 critically ill chronic heart failure patients referred for heart transplantation evaluation into three groups. One group received acupuncture at traditional acupuncture sites. The second received non-acupoint acupuncture in which needles were placed at sites not traditionally believed to be useful in acupuncture. Finally, the third group had a no-needle simulation of the treatment, in which a needle holder is tapped to the back of their neck, but no needle was inserted.
The average age of the pat
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association