Acupuncture in Medicine, BMJ
Mild electrical stimulation of acupuncture points by TEAS on the abdomen and legs, in the three cycles leading up to a frozen embryo transfer, was shown to significantly improve rates of implantation, clinical pregnancy and live births compared to control groups in this small RCT. Ultrasound showed that the treatment goup had changes to the structure and quality of the uterine lining, and increased levels of HOXA10 which may explain improved receptivity.
To evaluate the effect of transcutaneous electrical acupuncture point stimulation (TEAS) on endometrial HOXA10 protein expression and three-dimensional (3D) power Doppler ultrasound parameters as markers of endometrial receptivity in women undergoing frozen-thawed embryo transfer (FET).
A total of 68 women undergoing FET were randomised to receive TEAS or mock TEAS at acupuncture points CV3, CV4 and SP6 and Zigong bilaterally. Both groups had six sessions per cycle for three menstrual cycles prior to the scheduled FET. Each session lasted 30 min and was repeated every other day. 3D power Doppler ultrasound parameters, HOXA10 protein expression and rates of embryo implantation, clinical pregnancy and live birth were compared.
There were no significant differences between the two groups in endometrial thickness or endometrial volume. The ultrasonographic endometrial triple-line pattern was present more often in the TEAS group (p=0.002). The TEAS group had a greater endometrial and subendometrial vascularisation index (VI) than the mock TEAS group (p=0.001 and p<0.001, respectively) on 3D ultrasound and increased endometrial HOXA10 expression (p=0.001) immediately prior to FET. Subsequently, the rates of embryo implantation, clinical pregnancy and live birth rates were all higher in the TEAS group than in the mock TEAS group (p=0.024, p=0.038 and p=0.033, respectively).
In patients undergoing FET, TEAS may have beneficial effects on endometrial HOXA10 expression and ultrasound markers of endometrial receptivity. These findings may explain the improvement in clinical outcome of FET associated with the use of TEAS.