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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Improves Upper GI Symptoms and Balances the Sympathovagal Activity in Scleroderma Patients


To assess the impact of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) at gastrointestinal (GI) acupoints on GI symptoms and quality of life in scleroderma patients, 17 patients filled out SF-36 and GI symptom questionnaires before the electrocardiogram was recorded for two intervals: baseline and TENS. At home, patients applied TENS for 14 days, then were reassessed.

Acutely, TENS application significantly increased sympathetic and vagal activities vs. baseline (P= 0.02 and P= 0.004), respectively. Prolonged TENS application normalized the sympathovagal balance (P= 0.04), decreased GI symptom scores (P= 0.02) and increased the physical functioning score (SF36), which strongly correlated with the change in the sympathovagal balance (r= 0.6, P= 0.02). In conclusion, TENS at GI acupoints offers a potential option in the treatment of upper GI symptoms, but further study is necessary.

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This work received grant support from NIH/NIA (R21) AG023951.

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Correspondence to J. D. Z. Chen.

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Sallam, H., McNearney, T.A., Doshi, D. et al. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Improves Upper GI Symptoms and Balances the Sympathovagal Activity in Scleroderma Patients. Dig Dis Sci 52, 1329 (2007).

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  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Heart rate variability
  • Systemic sclerosis