This small pilot study examined the effect of Viagra and acupuncture on the uterine linings of women who had a history of thin linings (<8mm) in previous IVF cycles (including patients who had previously used Viagra alone). They used the above mentioned protocols which improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. The researchers found that after acupuncture treatment the thickness of the lining improved to 10 mm or more in all participating patients.
Endometrial thickness has been shown to be an important prognostic factor of successful embryo implantation. If the endometrial thickness is less than 9 mm, there is a significant reduction in live birth rates. Though there is conflicting data, preliminary evidence suggests that the administration of vaginal Sildenafil can markedly improve endometrial thickness and result in increased live IVF births. Our clinical observations are consistent with this. However, other clinics report inconsistent results. Therefore, we hypothesized that the difference in response between clinics may involve other factors. When we looked into this, we found that many of our patients were simultaneously receiving acupuncture treatments.
Studies on acupuncture have demonstrated positive effects on implantation rates, ongoing pregnancy rates and the number of live births. Acupuncture has also been shown, via measurements of pulsatility index, to significantly increase blood flow to the uterus. Decreases in pulsatility index have been shown to significantly improve pregnancy rates. Researchers have also found that acupuncture has direct effects on the endometrium. Some of these include increases in progesterone receptor concentration, a reduction in COX-2, and an increase in the activity of nitric oxide synthase. Therefore, the purpose of our investigation was to evaluate the effects of combining acupuncture and Sildenafil suppositories on endometrial lining.
Results: All four subjects achieved endometrial lining thickness of greater than or equal to 10 mm following the administration of the combination of acupuncture and Sildenafil, including one patient whose lining did not exceed 5 mm in a previous cycle. Another patient, who had not responded to Sildenafil alone in a prior IVF cycle, responded to the combination of Sildenafil and acupuncture. We also noted that endometrial thickness in most patients continued to increase post-hCG administration.
Conclusions: This pilot study is consistent with previous reports that acupuncture improves uterine lining measurements over previous cycles. This preliminary data supports the potential for a synergistic action between acupuncture and Sildenafil. We hypothesize these effects may be due to acupuncture’s ability to upregulate nitric oxide synthase. However, we cannot rule out other mechanisms of action since acupuncture has also been shown to affect many other parameters. The results of this preliminary data may also suggest a role for a similar combination in treating erectile dysfunction. Further testing and data is necessary to verify these results.