Electroacupuncture via chronically implanted electrodes improves gastrointestinal motility by balancing sympathovagal activities in a rat model of constipation

Xinjun Wang, Boli Yang, Jieyun Yin, Wei Wei, Jiande Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Electroacupuncture (EA) has been reported for treating constipation in clinical studies. However, little is known of the possible mechanisms involved in the prokinetic effect of EA. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects and underlying autonomic mechanisms of EA via chronically implanted electrodes for constipation in rat induced by Loperamide (Lop). Lop was given to regular rats to induce constipation. EA was performed via a pair of electrodes chronically implanted at bilateral acupoint ST-36. Feces characteristics, gastric emptying, small intestinal transit, distal colon transit time (dCTT), and whole gut transit time (WGTT) were measured in various sessions with EA or sham EA in rats with constipation induced by Lop. Heart rate variability (HRV) derived from the electrocardiogram was analyzed to evaluate autonomic functions. The number of fecal pellets was reduced by 27% with Lop (P < 0.01) and normalized by 7-day EA. Similar results were also observed in pellet weight. In normal rats compared with sham EA, EA shortened dCTT by 74% (P < 0.05 vs. sham EA), increased small intestinal transit by 28% (P < 0.01) and gastric emptying by 27% (P < 0.05), and accelerated whole gut transit by 14% (P < 0.05). In Lop-treated rats, the dCTT and WGTT were prolonged by Lop and normalized by EA. Lop significantly decreased vagal activity and increased sympathetic nerve activity; however, EA reversed these effects. EA at ST-36 via chronically implanted electrodes improves Lop-induced constipation by enhancing GI motility via the autonomic mechanisms. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The findings of the present study suggest that the proposed electroacupuncture (EA) may have great therapeutic potential for treating patients with opioid-induced constipation. It was demonstrated that EA at ST-36 improved transit of every organ along the gut mediated via the autonomic mechanisms in normal rats and rats with Lop-induced constipation. It is advised to administrate EA daily instead of two or three times weekly as reported in most of the clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G797-G805
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Distal colon transit time
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Gastric emptying
  • Small intestinal transit
  • Whole gut transit time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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