Acupuncture "is becoming increasingly accepted by both physicians and patients," added Dr. David P. Martin, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He said the technique can be helpful whether it is used to lower the level of morphine or other opioid painkiller, or whether it is used to relieve nausea. Often, he said, "people prefer to have pain to throwing up."
He questioned, however, how widely acupuncture could be used during operations because "acupuncture needles tend to get in the way" in crowded OR conditions.
Another expert said Gan's finding that adjunctive acupuncture can reduce urinary retention by 3.5 times is especially important.
"The risk reduction is huge," said Dr. Kenneth Levey, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine, New York City. Urinary retention is not only uncomfortable for the patient but the use of a catheter to relieve it increases the risk of infection, he said.
"For optimum pain control with minimum side effects, opioids plus acupuncture are the way to go and hopefully will become more widely accepted," Levey added.
There's more on acupuncture at the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
SOURCES: Tong J. Gan, M.D., professor and vice chairman, department of anesthesiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; David P. Martin, M.D., department of anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn; Kenneth Levey M.D., director, New York Center for Pelvic Pain and Minimally Invasive Surgery, and clinical assistant professor, obstetrics and gynecology, New York University School of Medicine, New York City; Oct. 17, 2007, presentat
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