Electroacupuncture Procedures Help Reduce Pain in Patients After Surgery

Results of the study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2021 annual meeting show 65% of patients who received acupuncture during surgery achieved a low-dose or opioid-free postoperative experience, compared to 9% of patients outside of the study.

“Total knee replacements are one of the most common operative procedures in the United States and often very painful, so there’s a great need to explore non-opioid pain relief techniques for this type of surgery,” said Stephanie Cheng, M.D., DABMA, lead author of the study and assistant attending anesthesiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, both located in New York City. “Acupuncture is extremely safe and can help reduce pain with few unwanted side effects, but it has not been well researched as part of surgical anesthesia.”


Electroacupuncture is a modified form of traditional acupuncture that applies a small electric current to thin needles that are inserted at known acupuncture points on the body. The acupuncture was administered during surgery by Dr. Cheng to eight specific points in the ear to provide targeted pain relief in the knee.

“Our study shows that if a trained medical acupuncturist is available to perform acupuncture in the operating room, it can help patients with postoperative pain recovery,” said Dr. Cheng. “Most studies fail to incorporate nontraditional techniques, such as acupuncture, to help decrease the dependence on opioid medications for postoperative pain control.”

Judging by the current opioid epidemic, achieving low-dose perioperative opioid consumption is critical for reducing the risk of patients using opioids long-term.

Acupuncture is widely used outside of the hospital for pain management and treatment of a variety of health issues and symptoms, so it’s time to think about how it can help inside the hospital as well. Dr. Cheng said. “Additional research is needed to further define acupuncture’s effects and encourage its use in all aspects of disease treatment.”

Source: Medindia

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