Because acupuncture is growing in popularity, and no specific studies have been conducted on the safety of acupuncture in children, Vohra and her colleagues wanted to assess the available evidence to determine whether or not acupuncture is a safe treatment for children.
The researchers reviewed all of the available literature on acupuncture in children. They found 37 studies and case reports that met their inclusion criteria.
The rate of adverse events was significantly lower in children than what has been reported in adults, the results showed.
The current analysis found a mild adverse event rate of nearly 12 percent in children. Mild events included bleeding, pain, crying, bruising and worsening of symptoms.
Serious events occurred in 25 children. Twelve children had thumb deformities, and five experienced infections after acupuncture. There were also isolated heart problems, lung problems, bleeding issues, nerve impairment, intestinal obstruction, hospitalization and a reversible coma.
Many of the serious adverse events were believed to be the result of substandard practices, said Vohra.
All three experts recommended making sure your child's acupuncturist is well trained. In Canada, acupuncture is regulated in a standard fashion and acupuncturists have to have specific training. In the United States, requirements vary by state, although most require that acupuncturists be licensed, according to Kang. Vohra and Kang both recommended contacting national acupuncture associations for a practitioner recommendation. Practitioners certified by national organizations will likely have more training.
Kang said that there are some acupuncturists who specialize in acupuncture on children, but that most practitioners will have had some pediatric experience. She said that it's uncommon to do needle insertions on children younger than 11 years old. Instead, she said, acupuncture
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