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Q: I would like to know more about acupuncture analgesia. Is acupuncture analgesia effective to use during surgery instead of anesthesia medication?

A: Acupuncture Analgesia

Acupuncture is used for anesthesia. Needles are inserted both prior to and during surgery. The acupuncture points that are used for acupuncture anesthesia can safely and effectively reduce or entirely eliminate the pain of an operation or surgery. Because of the extensive Eastern medical hospital wings in China, acupuncture analgesia is much more common in China.  In the United States acupuncture analgesia is most often used for dental procedures and veterinary surgeries.

According to the book, Acupuncture, by Marc Duke, in July of 1971 James Reston of the New York Times, and his wife witnessed surgical operations in China such as removal of a lung with the patient receiving no gas anesthesia or injection, but instead a long needle inserted into the forearm.  

According to Frank Warren, MD, he along with the assistance of Dr's. Pang L. Man of Northville, Michigan, and Yoshiaki Omura of New York, performed acupuncture analgesia for the first time in a major operation in the United States on May 26, 1972. 

The two surgeries, performed at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, were involved: a hernia and a split-thickness skin graft, from thigh to calf.  While the hernia analgesia lasted only partly through the first operation, in the second the three large skin slices were successfully transplanted in an hour-long operation, which the patient described to the New York Times as a “wonderful experience.”

When acupuncture is used as the primary anesthesia during surgery, the patient remains conscious and can play an active role during the operation.

According to "Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text" by the Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine, "Not only is pain suppressed, but other physiological functions are maintained at normal levels, and the body's power to resist disease is itself strengthened as a result of needle stimulation. The side effects associated with other forms of anesthesia are absent. Thus, the period of post-operative recovery is accelerated."

Different points are used for acupuncture anesthesia depending on the area of the surgery.  The stimulation of the needles is strong.