Clinical research on the therapeutic effect of the electro-acupuncture treatment in patients with depression

Luo H, Meng F, Jia Y, Zhao X.

Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Institute of Mental Health, Beijing Medical University, PR China.

Electroacupuncture (EA) stimulation has been found to influence the brain (norepinephrine metabolism in experimental animals). Preliminary clinical research has shown that EA treatment is as effective as amitriptyline for patients with depression. In this study, two consecutive clinical studies on the treatment of depression with EA are conducted. The first study was double blind placebo controlled, in which 29 depressed inpatients were recruited. Patients were randomly divided into three groups: EA + placebo; amitriptyline; and EA + amitriptyline. They received EA and/or amitriptyline treatment for 6 weeks. The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Clinical Global Impression and ASBERG scales for the side effect of antidepressants were used to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy and side effects. Based on the results and research protocol of the first study, a multi-centered collaborative study was conducted, in which 241 inpatients with depression were recruited. Patients were randomly divided into two treatment groups: the EA + placebo and the amitriptyline groups. The results from both studies showed that the therapeutic efficacy of EA was equal to that of amitriptyline for depressive disorders (P > 0.05). Electro-acupuncture had a better therapeutic effect for anxiety somatization and cognitive process disturbance of depressed patients than amitriptyline (P < 0.05). Moreover, the side effects of EA were much less than that of amitriptyline (P < 0.001). The article suggested that EA treatment was an effective therapeutic method for depressive disorders. Particularly, it was a treatment of choice for depressed patients who were unable to comply with the classic tricyclic antidepressants because of their anticholinergic side effects. The possible mechanism of EA treatment is discussed.

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