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Acupuncture points to post-op comfort

30 July 04

Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.

Acupuncture is a cheap and safe way of preventing people who have just had an operation from being sick or feeling nauseous. That is the conclusion of a review of 26 trials involving over 3000 patients.

Anna Lee of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Mary Done of the New Children's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, focused on trials that studied the effects of "P6" treatment - stimulation of the "pericardium" (P6) acupuncture point on the wrist.

Patients receiving P6 acupuncture were 28 per cent less likely to feel nauseous and 29 per cent less likely to be sick than patients receiving sham treatments, such as insertion of the needle at the wrong place or pretended stimulation of P6.

They were also 24 per cent less likely to ask for anti-sickness drugs. Without treatment, post-operative nausea and vomiting is estimated to affect four out of five people who have had anaesthetics.

In head-to-head comparisons with routine anti-sickness drugs, acupuncture was equally good at preventing nausea and vomiting. The authors report that there were minimal side effects, and advocate P6 acupuncture as a safe and effective means of preventing post-operative sickness and nausea.

Journal reference: The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004 (DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003281.pub2)

Andy Coghlan


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