WASHINGTON The use of acupuncture before and
during surgery reduces patients' post-operative pain as well as
the need for pain-killing medication, researchers said on
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center in North
Carolina analyzed the results of 15 clinical trials on the
effectiveness of acupuncture -- a practice that originated in
China of inserting thin needles into specific body points.
They concluded that it is valuable for pain control in
The 15 trials showed that patients getting acupuncture
before or during various types of operations had significantly
less pain afterward than patients who did not get acupuncture.
These patients also required less morphine or other opioid
pain medication after surgery, which reduced the side effects
like nausea and vomiting from these types of drugs, the
In terms of pain-drug side effects, the acupuncture
patients experienced 1.5 times lower rates of nausea, 1.6 times
fewer reports of dizziness and 3.5 times fewer cases of urinary
retention compared to the other patients, the study found.
These findings augment a growing body of evidence on the
value of acupuncture in improving the surgical experience for
patients, the researchers said.
For instance, the National Institutes of Health says that
acupuncture has also been shown to reduce nausea after
chemotherapy and surgery.
"The use of acupuncture is still very under-appreciated,"
Dr. Tong-Joo Gan, vice chairman of Duke's anesthesiology
department, said in a telephone interview.
"Western doctors are typically not trained (in acupuncture)
and they really are not familiar with how it works," Gan said.
"I think practitioners such as surgeons and anesthesiologists
need to have an open mind."
He said numerous studies have looked at acupuncture to
reduce post-operative pain, but many of them were not very well
done. Gan said his team identified a group of well-controlled
studies to judge how well acupuncture worked.
"I do it all the time," Gan said. "You give patients the
acupuncture about half an hour before surgery and continue
during surgery. It can reduce post-operative pain."
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health,
scientists do not fully understand how acupuncture works,
believing it might help the activity of the body's pain-killing
chemicals or affect the regulation of blood pressure and flow.
"I think it is generally applicable to a number of
different procedures," Gan said. "In the studies, we looked at
abdominal procedures, orthopedic procedures, gynecological
The research was presented at a conference of the American
Society for Anesthesiology in San Francisco.