Acupuncture for post-stroke depression: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

Wai Lam Ching, Hui Juan Li, Jianwen Guo, Liang Yao, Janita Chau, Suzanne Lo, Chun Sum Yuen, Bacon Fung Leung Ng, Edwin Chau-Leung Yu, Zhaoxiang Bian, Alexander Y. Lau (Corresponding Author), Linda Ld Zhong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Patients with post-stroke depression (PSD) usually experience anxiety, hopelessness, and insomnia, which have a negative impact on their daily activities and post-stroke rehabilitation. Acupuncture (AC), as a minimally invasive technique, has become a popular choice for improving depression symptoms. However, it is still unclear which therapy is associated with the best outcomes for PSD. In this review, we aimed to explore the impact of AC in alleviating symptoms of PSD and to evaluate the difference in effectiveness between AC combined with pharmacotherapies and various non-pharmacotherapies. Methods: Six databases and three clinical trials registration platforms were searched from inception to March 2023. Randomized clinical trial comparing needle-based AC with pharmacotherapy, and other non-pharmacotherapy or invalid group were included. Two independent reviewers identified eligible studies, and collected data using a pre-made form. A Bayesian network meta-analysis was conducted to assess and compare different techniques using RStudio 3.6.0 with the package ‘GEMTC’ V.0.8.1. The primary outcome was the efficacy for PSD assessed by scales measuring depressive symptoms. The secondary outcomes were effectiveness for neurological function and the quality of life. The ranking probabilities for all treatment interventions was performed using the Surface Under the Cumulative Ranking curve (SUCRA). The risk of bias was assessed by using the Revised Cochrane Risk of Bias tool 2. Results: Sixty-two studies, involving 5308 participants published from 2003 to 2022, were included. The results showed that compared with western medicine (WM) (defined as pharmacotherapy for PSD), AC alone or with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (RTMS), Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) alone or with WM, were superior for alleviating depression symptoms. Compared to Usual Care, AC alone or plus other therapies could significantly decrease scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating scale. According to result of SUCRA, AC plus RTMS had the highest probability of improving depressive symptoms with a probability of 49.43%. Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that AC alone or combined with other therapies appears to be effective in improving depression symptoms of stroke survivors. Moreover, in comparison to WM, AC alone or plus RTMS, TCM, TCM with WM, or WM, were more effective in improving depression symptoms of PSD. Also, AC with RTMS seems to be the most effective with the highest probability. Registration: This study was registered in the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) database in November 2020 and updated in July 2021. The registration number is CRD42020218752.

Original languageEnglish
Article number314
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2023


  • Acupuncture
  • Network meta-analysis
  • Post-stroke depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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