Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common clinical arrhythmia and represents a major social and economic problem. The number of subjects with AF is constantly increasing as a result of aging and improved survival in several cardiac and non-cardiac diseases. Patients with AF are often
symptomatic, have a reduced physical capacity and are at high risk for thromboembolic events. Moreover, AF is associated with increased mortality and independently of the management based either on rhythm or rate control strategy, whereas the safety and efficacy of most anti-arrhythmic drugs are questionable. Increasing attention has therefore been addressed to evaluate the possible therapeutic and/or preventive effects of forms of treatment coming from ancient medical traditions of Far East, like acupuncture and yoga. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been found effective in managing patients with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Recently, also in the Western literature, reports have been published supporting the clinical efficacy of acupuncture to treat arterial hypertension and to reduce chest pain. Other studies have evaluated the effects of acupuncture and other methods of Eastern Medicine, i.e., Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan and Yoga, in the treatment of cardiac illnesses associated with supraventricular arrhythmias.
Two reports on the effects of acupuncture in preventing or reducing the rate of AF recurrences in patients with persistent or paroxysmal AF have been recently reported . Another ancient traditional eastern form of therapy and prevention, i.e., yoga, has been recently shown to reduce episodes of atrial fibrillation and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression often associated with this arrhythmia. Growing evidence indicates that acupuncture and yoga are safe, without any pro-arrhythmic effect and with limited cost. All these factors should be considered when evaluating the efficacy of therapeutic intervention for an epidemic disease as AF.
Credits: Federico Lombardi, MD, FESC; Sebastiano Belletti, MD; Alberto Lomuscio, MD.