Let's Talk Medicine

Completed Clinical Trial: Auricular Acupuncture in Postoperative Pain

The effect of acupuncture for postoperative pain control remains controversial. We therefore studied the effects of electrical auricular acupuncture (AA) on postoperative opioid consumption in a randomized, patient-blinded clinical trial.
40 female patients undergoing laparoscopy were included. Anaesthetized patients were randomly assigned to receive AA (shen men, thalamus and one segmental organ-specific point) or electrodes and electrical stimulation for 72 hours. Postoperatively patients received 1 g paracetamol every 6 hours and additional piritramide on demand. A blinded observer obtained the doses of piritramide and the visual analogue pain scores (VAS) at 0, 2, 24, 48, and 72 hours

Postoperative pain treatment is a major issue in management of surgical patients. Goal of the treatment is a maximal effect with minimal side effects. There are various treatment options, including conventional pharmacological and complementary approaches. Acupuncture is a system with an empirical basis, which has been used in the treatment for centuries. The mechanisms can be partly explained in terms of endogenous pain inhibitory systems. Its use for pain relief has been supported by clinical trials and this has facilitated its use in pain clinics in most countries.


Needle acupuncture and other forms of sensory stimulation produce similar physiological changes in humans and mammals, e.g. rhythmic discharges in nerve fibres, and the release of endogenous opioids. Besides acupuncture points located on “meridians” all over the body acupuncture points are also described on the ear. The stimulation of acupuncture points can be achieved by pressure, a mechanical action of needling, or electrical point stimulation.

In chronic pain treatment acupuncture has been found to be more effective than other non-pharmacological therapies. Furthermore, continuous electrical stimulation of auricular acupuncture points improves the treatment of chronic cervical pain patients. Finally, acupuncture represents not only a therapeutically beneficial, but also a cost-effective treatment option. Auricular acupuncture is also known to be effective in treatment of acute postoperative pain.

The aim of our study is to investigate in a randomized, prospective, double – blind, and controlled design whether continuous electrical stimulation of auricular acupuncture points results in reduction of postoperative pain.

Source: Andrea Holzer, MD, Medical University of Vienna

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This entry was posted on January 5, 2012 by in Acupuncture.
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