Picture: A hand with a needle 
Acupuncture needles reduce
the need of opioids after
surgery; © Hemera

The researchers combined data from 15 small randomized acupuncture clinical trials. “While the amount of opioids needed for patients who received acupuncture was much lower than those who did not have acupuncture, the most important outcome for the patient is the reduction of the side effects associated with opioids,“ said Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, M.D., an anaesthesiologist at the Duke University Medical Center. “These side effects can negatively impact a patient´s recovery from surgery and lengthen the time spent in the hospital.” Based on the results of this analysis, Gan recommends that acupuncture should be considered a viable option for pain control in surgery patients.

Patients who received acupuncture had significantly lower risk of developing most common side effects associated with opioid drugs compared with control: 1.5 times lower rates of nausea, 1.3 times fewer incidences of severe itching, 1.6 times fewer reports of dizziness and 3.5 times fewer cases of urinary retention.

Numerous studies, some conducted by Gan, have demonstrated that acupuncture can also be more effective than current medications in lessening the occurrence of post operative nausea and vomiting, the most common side effect experienced by patients after surgery. “Acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but it is still underutilized,” Gan said.

“Studies like this, which show that there is a benefit to using it, should help give physicians sitting on the fence the data they need to integrate acupuncture into their routine care of surgery patients.“ Acupuncture has the added benefits of being inexpensive, with virtually no side effects, when done by properly trained personnel, Gan added. While it is not completely known why or how acupuncture works, recent research seems to point to its ability to stimulate the release of hormones or the body´s own painkillers, known as endorphins, Gan said.

MEDICA.de; Source: Duke University Medical Center