Medical Research

Heart Rate Variability in the Acupuncture Clinic: My Abstract

Kristen Sparrow • June 08, 2012

Here is the abstract from my paper.  I hope it gets accepted.  If not, I’ll post it here.

Heart Rate Variability in the Acupuncture Clinic: Clinical Correlations and Lessons Learned

Background: Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has gained traction as a noninvasive autonomic monitor to be used during acupuncture interventions. The vast majority of studies have been done in controlled
academic settings, varying the points used, the type of stimulation, or the HRV parameter measured. Correlating HRV response to treatment outcomes has rarely been studied with notable exceptions. The utility of Acupuncture Clinic HRV monitoring will be explored here.


1. To evaluate the feasibility of HRV analysis (frequency, nonlinear, and time domains) during acupuncture treatment in the clinical setting
2. To correlate intra-treatment changes with clinical outcomes across a variety conditions, i.e. to determine clinical relevance Design, Setting and Patients: Retrospective, uncontrolled, case study of patients presenting to a private acupuncture clinic.


All patients received manual body acupuncture prescribed by the tenets of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) according to their presenting pattern and diagnosis. Main outcome measures: Patients’ assessments of progress and functionality. Heart rate was measured during treatment after needles were placed. The data were analyzed, filtering for artifact, comparing the first 10 minutes of treatment versus the second 10 minutes of treatment. LFR/HFR (Low frequency to high frequency ratio), Sample Entropy, pnn50, and (non-normalized) HF readings were analyzed, though only LFR/HFR reported.


Results presented by the following representative groups. “Profound responders,” “responders,” “non-responders,” and “Relaxation Response” patients.


A decrease in the LFR/HFR from the first 10 minutes to the second 10 minute segment remains the most consistently sensitive HRV measurement correlating with positive clinical outcomes. HRV analysis in a clinical setting is still highly problematic due to artifact, lack of controls, and time constraints, but the results are provocative. Parameters for HRV measurement in the clinic will be outlined and limitations discussed