Objectives To determine whether the combination of acupuncture and rehabilitation produces better results in the treatment of acute or subacute stroke sequelae than rehabilitation alone.
Methods A systematic review was carried out. A search was conducted in March 2014 using PubMed, Medline, the Cochrane Library, Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure database (CNKI) and Wanfang databases. English and Chinese language articles published within 10 years of the search were reviewed for inclusion. Randomised control trials comparing combined treatment with acupuncture and rehabilitation and rehabilitation alone in patients with acute or subacute stroke (onset until 3 months after stroke) were included in this review. Three review authors independently checked the titles and abstracts of trials for inclusion based on selection criteria. Studies measuring changes of motor function, activities of daily living, neurological deficit or spasticity/range of motion during the treatment period and at the end of follow-up were included.
Results 17 trials met the inclusion criteria, of which five were of good quality. 14 trials had results favourable to acupuncture combined with rehabilitation, compared with conventional rehabilitation treatment alone.
Conclusions Acupuncture in combination with rehabilitation may have benefits for the treatment of acute and subacute stroke sequelae in comparison with rehabilitation alone. However, many of the studies were at risk of bias. Future studies should focus on reaching a consensus about the most appropriate modality of acupuncture intervention, and the appropriate length of treatment for both interventions, to maximise the potential synergistic outcomes.
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