Open Access Open Badges Research article

A pilot controlled trial of a combination of dense cranial electroacupuncture stimulation and body acupuncture for post-stroke depression

Sui-Cheung Man1, Ben H B Hung1, Roger M K Ng2, Xiao-Chun Yu3, Hobby Cheung4, Mandy P M Fung4, Leonard S W Li5, Kwok-Pui Leung5, Kei-Pui Leung6, Kevin W Y Tsang6, Eric Ziea7, Vivian T Wong7 and Zhang-Jin Zhang1*

  • * Corresponding author: Zhang-Jin Zhang

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 The School of Chinese Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, 10 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China

2 Department of Psychiatry, Kowloon Hospital, Hong Kong, China

3 Institute of Acupuncture, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Dongchen District, Beijing 100700, China

4 Department of Rehabilitation, Kowloon Hospital, Hong Kong, China

5 Rehabilitation Unit, Tung Wah Hospital, Hong Kong, China

6 Department of Medicine and Rehabilitation, Tung Wah Eastern Hospital, Hong Kong, China

7 Chinese Medicine Department, Hospital Authority, Hong Kong, China

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:255  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-255

Published: 19 July 2014



Our previous studies have demonstrated the treatment benefits of dense cranial electroacupuncture stimulation (DCEAS), a novel brain stimulation therapy in patients with major depression, postpartum depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The purpose of the present study was to further evaluate the effectiveness of DCEAS combined with body acupuncture and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in patients with post-stroke depression (PSD).


In a single-blind, randomized controlled trial, 43 patients with PSD were randomly assigned to 12 sessions of DCEAS plus SSRI plus body electroacupuncture (n = 23), or sham (non-invasive cranial electroacupuncture, n-CEA) plus SSRI plus body electroacupuncture (n = 20) for 3 sessions per week over 4 weeks. Treatment outcomes were measured using the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), the Clinical Global Impression - Severity scale (CGI-S) and Barthel Index (BI), a measure used to evaluate movement ability associated with daily self-caring activity.


DCEAS produced a significantly greater reduction of both HAMD-17 and CGI-S as early as week 1 and CGI-S at endpoint compared to n-CEA, but subjects of n-CEA group exhibited a significantly greater improvement on BI at week 4 than DCEAS. Incidence of adverse events was not different in the two groups.


These results indicate that DCEAS could be effective in reducing stroke patients’ depressive symptoms. Superficial electrical stimulation in n-CEA group may be beneficial in improving movement disability of stroke patients. A combination of DCEAS and body acupuncture can be considered a treatment option for neuropsychiatric sequelae of stroke.

Trial registration webcite, NCT01174394.

Acupuncture; Post-stroke depression; Rehabilitation; Dense cranial electroacupuncture stimulation; DCEAS; Clinical trial