Acupuncture after valve surgery is feasible and shows promise in reducing postoperative atrial fibrillation: The ACU-Heart pilot trial

Kim L. Feingold*, Judith T. Moskowitz, Christian Elenbaas, Adin Cristian Andrei, David Victorson, Jane Kruse, Veronika Grote, Kaustubha D. Patil, Tatyana Shafiro, Ania Grimone, Fang Lin, Charles J. Davidson, Melinda Ring, Patrick M. McCarthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Acupuncture is an effective treatment for arrythmias and postoperative symptoms but has not been investigated after cardiac surgery. Acupuncture After Heart Surgery is a prospective, randomized, controlled pilot trial of daily inpatient acupuncture or standard care after valve surgery with the primary end point being feasibility and secondary end points being reduction in postoperative atrial fibrillation incidence and postoperative symptoms. Methods: A total of 100 patients without a history of atrial fibrillation underwent primary valve surgery via sternotomy and randomized 1:1 to acupuncture (51) or standard care (49). The acupuncture group received daily inpatient sessions starting on postoperative day 1. Postoperative symptoms (pain, nausea, stress, anxiety) were assessed once daily in the standard care group and before/after daily intervention in the acupuncture group. The groups were comparable except for age (acupuncture: 55.6 ± 11.4 years, standard care: 61.0 ± 9.3 years; P =.01). Results: The Acupuncture After Heart Surgery pilot trial met primary and secondary end points. There were no adverse events. An average of 3.8 (±1.1) acupuncture sessions were delivered per patient during a mean hospital stay of 4.6 days (±1.3). Acupuncture was associated with a reduction in pain, nausea, stress, and anxiety after each session (P <.0001), and patients receiving acupuncture had reduced postoperative stress and anxiety across admission compared with standard care (P =.049 and P =.036, respectively). Acupuncture was associated with reduced postoperative atrial fibrillation incidence (acupuncture: 7 [13.7%], standard care: 16 [32.7%]; P =.028), fewer discharges on amiodarone (acupuncture: 5 [9.8%], standard care: 13 [26.5%]; P =.03), and fewer hours in the intensive care unit (acupuncture: 30.3 ± 10.0, standard care: 37.0 ± 22.5; P =.057). Conclusions: Acupuncture after valve surgery is feasible, is well tolerated, and has clinical benefit. The reduction noted in postoperative atrial fibrillation incidence will inform larger trials designed to further investigate the impact of acupuncture on postoperative atrial fibrillation and medical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJTCVS Open
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • acupuncture
  • cardiac surgery
  • clinical trial
  • postoperative atrial fibrillation
  • valve surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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