Needleless Transcutaneous Neuromodulation Accelerates Postoperative Recovery Mediated via Autonomic and Immuno-Cytokine Mechanisms in Patients With Cholecystolithiasis

Bo Zhang, Kelei Zhu, Pingping Hu, Feng Xu, Liang Zhu, Jiande D.Z. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Postsurgical gastrointestinal disturbance is clinically characterized by the delayed passage of flatus and stool, delayed resumption of oral feeding, dyspepsia symptoms, and postsurgical pain. This study was designed 1) to evaluate the effects of needleless transcutaneous neuromodulation (TN) on postoperative recovery; 2) to investigate mechanisms of the TN involving autonomic functions in postoperative patients after removal of the gallbladder. Methods: Sixty patients scheduled for laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) were randomized to TN (n = 30) and sham-TN (n = 30). TN was performed via acupoints ST36 and PC6 for 30 min twice daily from 24 hours before surgery to 72 hours after surgery. Sham-TN was performed using the same parameters at nonacupoints. Results: 1) Compared to sham-TN, TN shortened time to first flatulence (38.9 ± 4.0 vs. 24.9 ± 2.4 hour, p = 0.004) and time to defecation (63.1 ± 4.5 vs. 42.5 ± 3.1 hour, p < 0.001). 2) Compared to sham-TN, TN increased the percentage of normal pace-making activity (66.2 ± 2.2 vs. 73.8 ± 2.3%, p = 0.018). 3) TN enhanced vagal activity. Compared to that 24 hours before surgery, surgery decreased vagal activity (HF) (0.41 ± 0.02 vs. 0.34 ± 0.02, p = 0.043) 3 hours after the operation. Compared to sham-TN, TN increased HF (0.45 ± 0.02 vs. 0.52 ± 0.02, p = 0.045) 72 hours after the operation. Further, HF was negatively correlated with time to defecation and serum norepinephrine. 4) Surgery increased serum IL-6 (1.1 ± 0.1 before surgery vs. 2.9 ± 0.7 pg/mL, p = 0.041) 72 hours after the operation, which was reduced to baseline by TN (0.9 ± 0.1). Conclusions: In conclusion, the proposed needleless TN accelerates postoperative recovery after LC, possibly mediated via the autonomic and immune-cytokine mechanisms. Needleless and self-administrable TN may be an easy-to-implement and low-cost complementary therapy for postoperative recovery. Keywords: Inflammatory cytokines, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, postoperative recovery, transcutaneous electrical neuromodulation, vagal activity. Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest related to this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-554
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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