Acupuncture a Hit With Heart Patients

| August 17, 2011 | 0 Comments | 69 views

SATURDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthSCOUT) -- Being pierced by countless needles before major surgery can be painful enough, and the notion of receiving acupuncture afterward may sound like torture to some.

But a preliminary study looking at patients who subjected themselves to just that following open heart surgery showed that nearly all felt acupuncture helped. And most said they would do it again -- in a heartbeat.

The study is one of three at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that will gather information for larger studies on the benefits of acupuncture, massage and guided imagery therapy following surgery.

According to Dr. Gregory Fontana, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai and director of the acupuncture section, the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

"Basically, what we found was that 19 of the 20 patients who received acupuncture thought it was just great. They reported being overall pleased. About 85 percent said they would pay out of pocket for more acupuncture even at the price point we said it would be. And with the massage patients, it was the same -- a very, very positive reaction," he said.

"One of the acupuncture patients was not happy and felt it was disruptive for him," he adds, "but to get 19 out of 20 patients to agree on anything is, to me, remarkable."

The study was designed to help patients with such common post-operative problems as pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and poor appetite. Fontana says the science behind why acupuncture helps is still a mystery, but the stimulation of endorphins may play a role.

"Some studies have shown that acupuncture releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers, so that will be one of the things our next study will look at. Down the road, we hope to look at immunological and endorphin measurements to see if we can see a physiological correlation for what the patients are perceiving," he says.

Scientific evidence aside, Fontana says patients' faces already tell him the therapies work.

"After working with this on 60 patients, I can now walk into a room and tell right away if a patient has had the therapy that day before even asking. They'll be smiling, not complaining about the usual things they complain about," he says.

Dr. Irving Kron, chairman of the American Heart Association's surgical council, notes that alternative therapies are starting to be embraced by some heart surgeons, and it's a trend he endorses.

"Obviously, we don't know how much of this works and how much of it doesn't," Kron says. "But as long as the patient feels better, I think it's OK. I don't see any downside. The only issue is whether it truly works and who knows? It's definitely worth a study."

What To Do

The question as to whether acupuncture can really complement traditional Western medicine is discussed on this site, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture . This site was recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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