Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program

Neurofunctional Treatment of Pain with Movement Disorders

Acupuncture for Surgery – Electro-acupuncture successfully used for minor surgery at McMaster University

By Dr. Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco
November 1, 2006

Meena Nandagopal, MD
Angelica Fargas-Babjak, MD
Caroline Sibley, MD
Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco, MD (Spain)

For centuries, traditional acupuncture in Asian countries has proven to be a reasonably effective and gentle therapy for the treatment of pain and common problems of visceral and endocrine regulation. Currently, therapeutic insertion of fine solid needles is practiced in almost every country in the world, making acupuncture both patrimony of the international medical community, and a therapy in rapid evolution.

In the Western world, acupuncture is mostly used for pain management. Acupuncture for surgery is practiced a lot in China, however, in the West it has not taken off to this extent. The patient population here have a different expectation and really would like to be under a general anesthetic for most procedures.

For acupuncture needling we utilize fine stainless steel single use disposable needles. These are used to stimulate neuroreactive sites (in acupuncture points) to modulate pain perception and reduce anxiety and induce relaxation. In particular, bodies’ own endorphins (morphine like substances) are released.

Kate is a 50-year-old woman with dysplasia of the uterine layer for which she needed to have a yearly biopsy. Her past medical history revealed that she had adverse reaction to multiple anesthetics and general anesthetic left her unwell for a few months. Regional anesthetic gave her patchy numbness in her legs for six months. After doing an exhaustive search in the GTA, and not being able to locate either an acupuncturist or a surgeon who was willing to do this procedure under acupuncture, she began a search of the internet. She found out that physicians at McMaster were performing acupuncture and hoped that they could do this minor procedure for her under acupuncture. She also managed to locate a surgeon from McMaster, Dr. Caroline Sibley, who was also willing to perform the procedure. The first time Kate came to McMaster for this procedure was in May of 2004, and then returned again for a repeat procedure in May of 2005. Both procedures were successfully performed under acupuncture analgesia without the use of any additional narcotics or sedatives. The same procedure was repeated on November 6, 2006 and she came out of the procedure alert, happy and pain free.

Acupuncture analgesia was given by Dr. Meena Nandagopal and supervised by Dr. Angelica Fargas-Babjak. Needles were placed in her head, ears, back, abdomen and legs. Stimulation with electricity was given for 30 to 45 minutes prior to the procedure. Her blood pressure and pulse rate were stable throughout the procedure. She had a small intravenous access as a safety backup. After the procedure, the only complaint Kate had was regarding the IV needle (“the only thing that hurt was the IV needle”). She recommends the technique where it is possible to assist minor surgical procedures to produce pain relief and relaxation.

Here at McMaster, we have been using acupuncture in IVF setting and labor induction. Another procedure where acupuncture was used was in post-operative pain relief for breast reduction. Daily use of acupuncture helped her to reduce the dose of IV morphine. It is also being used for nausea and vomiting for the pediatric population undergoing pigeon or funnel chest correction.

McMaster is currently training doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other health professionals from Canada and other countries to perform acupuncture on their patients. The Contemporary Medical Acupuncture course is being conducted twice per year through the Departments of Continuing Education and Anesthesia since 1999.

Hospital News – November 7, 2006