Objectives: We investigated whether the use of adjuvant traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy, a form of complementary and alternative medicine, is associated with long-term mortality after stroke.
Study design: We conducted a retrospective cohort study and used claims data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program linked to the National Registry of Death. The cohort included patients aged ≥18 years who were hospitalized for their first stroke event between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2013. Adjuvant TCM therapy was defined as additional treatments with TCM, which included acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Tuina, during hospitalization for up to six months.
Main outcome measure: The mortality rate was measured through to December 31, 2014.
Results: Of 321,157 patients with stroke, 14,579 received adjuvant TCM therapy. Propensity score matching resulted in 13,918 matched pairs of patients who did and did not receive adjuvant TCM care. Both multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models (hazard ratio [HR] 0.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.64-0.69) and propensity score-matching analysis (HR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.60-0.66) revealed a reduced mortality risk associated with the use of adjuvant TCM therapy, as compared with routine inpatient care only. Acupuncture was the most commonly used TCM therapy. Patients treated with acupuncture only, which accounted for 41.3% of TCM users, had a reduced risk of mortality compared with those treated with routine inpatient care.
Conclusions: The use of TCM therapy adjuvant to Western inpatient care in the acute and subacute stages of stroke recovery is associated with a reduced risk of long-term mortality.