Acupuncture treatment appeared to lowered the risk of epilepsy in stroke patients, researchers reported in the study, “Risk of epilepsy in stroke patients receiving acupuncture treatment: a nationwide retrospective matched-cohort study,” published in BMJ Open.
The study drew from the National Health Insurance Research Database in Taiwan, which included information on stroke patients hospitalized between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2004. Investigators identified 42,040 patients, ages 20 and older, hospitalized with a newly diagnosed stroke, and compared incidents of epilepsy during a follow-up period that stretched through 2009 in patients who either were or were not receiving acupuncture treatment.
Epilepsy frequently occurs after patients who experience hemorrhagic stroke, and after the first seizure, recurrent seizures are possible. The association established in this study, however, was found to exist for all types of stroke.
Researchers found that stroke patients given acupuncture treatment (9.8 per 1,000 person-years) had a reduced incidence of epilepsy compared to those who were not (11.5 per 1,000 person-years), after adjusting for sociodemographic factors and coexisting medical conditions.
Acupuncture treatment was associated with a decreased risk of epilepsy in almost all adult stroke patients, or those ages 20 to 69.
Although concluding that acupuncture treatment reduced the risk of epilepsy in these patients, investigators highlighted that its protective effects require further validation in prospective cohort studies, noting their data lack information on clinical risk scores, lesion characteristics, biochemical measures, and lifestyle habits.
Likewise, preventive approaches such as antiepileptic medications or rehabilitation programs during the follow-up period were not considered. Lack of validity of diagnostic disease codes is another study limitation of the study, as was an inability to validate the actual acupuncture points used in treatment, with the mode of treatment varying among traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
But researchers noted that acupuncture, relatively inexpensive and only mildly invasive, is a major elemental therapy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and widely used in many countries. A previous study found TCM is commonly employed for stroke patients in Asian countries, with several investigations demonstrating that acupuncture treatment may improve dysphagia, cognitive function, spasticity, depression, and quality of life in stroke patients.