To investigate the comparative efficacy of electro-acupuncture when added to standard therapy in patients with Bell palsy in terms of clinical and neurophysiologic outcomes.
A total of 88 patients with Bell palsy who received standard treatment (ST group; n = 40, mean ± standard deviation age: 39.2 ± 6.6 years, 60.0% were males) or standard treatment plus electro-acupuncture (ST-EA group; n = 48, mean ± standard deviation age: 39.5 ± 6.9 years, 58.3% were males) were included. Data on patient demographics, symptoms, comorbidities, and 3-month outcomes on treatment response assessed via House-Brackmann grading system and facial nerve recovery profile and electromyography were recorded.
Application of ST-EA versus ST was associated with a significantly higher rate of normal nerve function on 12th week electromyography (66.7% versus 25.0%, P = 0.020), higher frequency of patients with House-Brackmann grade ≤2 in the 3rd week (79.2% versus 45.0%, P = 0.029), 6th week (87.5% versus 45.0%, P = 0.004), and 12th week (95.8% versus 50.0%, P = 0.001), and those with facial nerve recovery profile scores ≥8 in the 6th week (83.3% versus 45.0%, P = 0.011) and 12th week (87.5% versus 50.0%, P = 0.009) of treatment.
In conclusion, our findings in patients with Bell palsy revealed superiority of electro-acupuncture added to standard therapy over standard therapy alone in terms of improvement of nerve dysfunction, decrease in paralysis severity, and better functional recovery. This seems to indicate the likelihood of electro-acupuncture to be a safe and promising adjunct in the achievement of more satisfactory clinical outcomes in the management of Bell palsy when used in combination with standard medical and physiotherapy.