Study shows acupuncture reduces pain and opioid use in total knee replacement surgery patients


According to a study presented at ANESTHESIOLOGY, patients who use acupuncture during total knee replacement surgery report less pain and need significantly less opioids to manage their discomfort.® 2021 Annual Meeting. Study results showed that 65% of patients who received acupuncture during surgery achieved a low-dose or non-opioid postoperative experience, compared to 9% of patients outside of the study.

“Total knee replacements are one of the most common operative procedures in the United States and are often very painful, so exploring opioid-free pain relief techniques is essential for this type of surgery,” said said Stephanie Cheng, MD, DABMA, lead study author and attending assistant anesthetist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, both located in New York City. “Acupuncture is extremely safe and can help reduce pain with few adverse side effects, but it has not been well studied in the setting of surgical anesthesia.”

The study included 41 patients undergoing primary total knee arthroplasty at the Special Surgery Hospital. All patients received the institution’s standard multimodal opioid-sparing analgesic protocol, with the addition of electroacupuncture – a modified form of traditional acupuncture that applies a small electrical current to thin needles that are inserted into known acupuncture points on the body. Acupuncture was administered during surgery by Dr. Cheng, who is certified in medical acupuncture, to eight specific points in the ear to provide targeted knee pain relief.

With the addition of acupuncture, the majority of patients showed a significant reduction in postoperative opioid use, compared to historical controls. Sixty-five percent of patients maintained a low-dose opioid regimen of 15 oxycodone tablets or less (57.5%) or remained completely opioid-free (7.5%) since induction of therapy. anesthesia for up to 30 days after surgery. Historically, only 9% of patients outside the study maintained a low-dose or opioid-free regimen after surgery. All patients studied stopped using opioids 30 days after surgery.

“Our study shows that if a trained medical acupuncturist is available to perform acupuncture in the operating room, it can help patients recover from postoperative pain,” Dr. Cheng said. “Most studies fail to incorporate non-traditional techniques, such as acupuncture, to help reduce reliance on opioid medications for postoperative pain control.”

In the context of the opioid epidemic, achieving low-dose perioperative opioid consumption is essential to reduce the risk of long-term opioid use in patients. With acupuncture commonly used outside of the hospital as an effective therapy for pain management and treatment of a range of health conditions and symptoms, it’s time to look at its benefits inside as well. inside the hospital, said Dr. Cheng. “Further research is needed to better define the effects of acupuncture and encourage its use in all aspects of disease treatment.”


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