Background: Acupuncture has been used to treat patients with post-stroke neurological dysfunction.
Objective: The purpose of our observational study was to observe the long-term efficacy of acupuncture and investigate whether the acupuncture treatment could short the recovery time of patients with post-stroke dysphagia.
Methods: Medical records were reviewed to select patients who met the inclusion criteria for post-stroke dysphagia. Exposure factor was defined as received acupuncture during inpatient. Clinical data were obtained at the 6-month follow-up. The primary outcome was the time to improve the score of Food Intake Level Scale (FILS, 0-10) by 3 grades. Cox regression models were used to assess the relationship between acupuncture and recovery of dysphagia.
Results: In acupuncture group, the median time to achieve clinical improvement of dysphagia was 97 days (95% CI, 93-124) compared with 119 days (95% CI, 108-145) in control group, with a statistically significant difference between the two groups (HR = 1.48; 95% CI 1.14-1.92; P = 0.003). At 6 months, 78 patients (60.5%) in acupuncture group reached excellent function and 61 patients (47.3%) in control group (RR = 1.28; 95% CI, 1.02-1.62; P = 0.045). 106 patients (82.2%) in acupuncture group achieved favorable function and 91 patients (70.5%) in control group (RR = 1.17; 95% CI, 1.02-1.35; P = 0.039). The outcome of adjusted multivariable Cox regression models showed that there was a difference in the recovery time of dysphagia between groups, HR = 1.79, 95% CI 1.34-2.39. The rates of adverse events were similar in both groups.
Conclusions: Acupuncture can promote the recovery of post-stroke dysphagia, and has a better long-term efficacy. Besides, it can reduce the degree of disability and improve the quality of life.