A study undertaken in Germany has shown acupuncture offers significant benefits to patients who have undergone coronary bypass surgery. Impaired breathing and depressed lung function as a side-effect of opioid pain killers, are common complications of the sternotomy procedure, in which a longitudinal incision is made along the sternum or breastbone.
A total of 100 such patients at Heidelberg University Hospital were randomly allocated to one of three groups:
– group 1 received standard pain relief plus acupuncture at sub-optimal acupuncture points to act as a control;
– group 2 received standard pain relief plus acupuncture at optimal acupuncture points chosen according to traditional Chinese medicine as appropriate to the condition being treated;
– group 3 received standard pain relief alone.
Both acupuncture groups experienced statistically significant pain relief, but whereas group 1 experienced an 18% pain reduction, group 2 experienced a 71% reduction. In addition to recording subjective pain scores, the researchers also studied patients’ forced vital capacity, an objective measure of analgesia-related improvement in the ability to expand the rib cage. In group 1, this increased by a statistically insignificant 30ml, whereas in group 2, the increase was 306ml. The researchers conclude acupuncture provides clinically significant pain relief resulting in improved breathing. Due to the difference in results between groups 1 and 2, they also believe the choice of acupuncture points is of crucial importance, showing the technique to be much more effective than might be expected from placebo alone.
(Objectifying acupuncture effects by lung function and numeric rating scale in patients undergoing heart surgery. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 2013.)