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  • Writer's pictureClaire Norton MBaCC

Acupuncture Anaesthesia

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

Acupuncture Analgesia is the use of acupuncture to allow major surgery to be performed on awake patients. In 1958 the first successful instance of acupuncture anaesthesia was used in Shanghai No 1 Peoples Hospital. ‘…Dr. Yin Huizhu performed a tonsillectomy without the use of conventional anaesthesia by applying acupuncture to Hegu (LI 4) acupoints…’ Acupuncture today (2015, October). One example of Acupuncture Anaesthesia being preferred over conventional anaesthesia would be if there is post-surgical risk of hepatic injury or pharmacological toxicity. Bosco et al ( 2018) demonstrates such cases with two patients with breast cancer and severe liver disease unable to receive conventional anaesthesia. In this particular study, the patients post operative hospital stay was shorter due to rapid wakening and highlighted a much less expensive method compared to anaesthesia. The points used in this study were LU1 or LU2, ST14, ST18, VB24 (as local points) KI22, KI27 (for intercostal nurelgia), ST36 (for a general effect) and LI4 for general analgesic power.

In the case of heart surgery, acupuncture anaesthesia can reduce early postoperative complications, however; Jia et al (2011) explains that acupuncture anasthesia is not without its limitations such as preoperative preparation and a lack of adequate muscle reaction. According to Jia et al (2011) between 2006 and 2010 , 100 patients underwent open heart surgery using combined acupuncture-medicine anaesthesia (CAMA) and 100 underwent open heart surgery using general anaesthetic (GA). The acupuncture points used in the acupuncture group were Zhongfu (Lu1), LieQui (Lu7) and Ximen (PC4), bilateral electro acupuncture stimulation was used and then all patients received morphine. Electroacupuncture was used in the heart surgery study. According to O’conner (1981) the advantage of electroacupuncture over ordinary acupuncture is the ability to regulate and control stimulation, freeing of acupuncturists hands for continual stimulation and to provide current through an electrode on the skin surface without the aid of a needle inserted subcutaneously.

These 3 points chosen for the CAMA would have all had a local or distal effect on the chest, Zhongfu (Lu1) would be a local point consideration that relaxes the chest whilst LieQui (Lu7) clears pain on the sternum. Ximen (PC4) is a xi-cleft point, renowned for treating pain and particularly in the pericardium channel which would pass through the location of surgery, its also known to calm the heart and treat nervousness which is why it may have been the point of choice. Jia et al (2011) concluded that the CAMA group had a longer operation time, a less usage of narcotic drugs and postoperative pulmonary infection was significantly less than the GA group. This particular study suggested that a combination of acupuncture anaesthesia with additional narcotics improves postoperative recovery time in patients undergoing open heart surgery and therefore is an economic safe and feasible alternative.


Acupuncture Today (2015, October) Acupuncture Rising: From Acupuncture Anaesthesia to Assisted-IVF, Part 1; [accessed 8 October 2018]

Bosco, F, Cidin, S, Maceri, F, Ghilli M ,Roncella M and De Simone, L 2018. An integrated approach with homeopathic medicine and electro-acupuncture in anaesthesiology during breast cancer surgery: Case reports J Pharmacopuncture [Online] Jun 21, 126–131. Available at: [accessed 8 October 2018]

Jia, Z, Hao, C, Tsung, C, Tong-yu, C, Yao-yao, W, Wen-xiong, Z, Wei-dong, S, Lan, Y. 2011. Acupuncture Anaesthesia for open heart surgery in contemporary China. International Journal of Cardiology, [Online]. 150, 12-16. Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2018]

Oconner J, Bensky D (1981) Acupuncture, A comprehensive text; Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine, Seattle: Eastland Press

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