December 14, 2013

Acupuncture Alleviates Pain After Tonsillectomy in Children

The study showed that acupuncture significantly decreased pain after tonsillectomy in children (2-17 years of age) with reported pain levels before acupuncture of 5.52 (SD=2.28) out of 10 which fell to 1.92 (SD=2.43) after acupuncture.

This retrospective research was conducted in 31 patients who underwent a tonsillectomy within a 3 month period of time by Dr. James Ochi, one of only a handful of dual board-certified ENT and medical acupuncture in the United States. No study patients received any narcotics for pain control beyond tylenol, ibuprofen, and a single dose of intra-operative dexamethasone. The tonsillectomy itself was performed using electrocautery set at 24W.

The acupuncture points used for pain control are shown below and was performed bilaterally:
Image taken from the Research Paper
All patients received acupuncture at LI4 (between thumb and index finger). Additional points were found effective in relieving tonsillectomy pain and provided on an as needed basis at (in decreasing frequency) CV23, GV24.5 and GV20. Acupuncture points LI20, LI11, and LI10 were utilized in only a few patients.

LI4 point is hypothesized to work so well because:
"Stimulation at LI4 increases activity in the somatosensory cortex and a region of the brainstem known as the periaqueductal gray area, as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging, that are involved in processing pain signals." [link]
Although promising, in order to be fully convinced of the effectiveness of acupuncture for post-tonsillectomy pain, further research that is prospective, randomized, and controlled is required.

BUT... because the risks and side effects are so nominal, it can't hurt to give it a try for those patients and families interested in doing so.

For full disclosure, I personally have no experience in providing acupuncture and I would suggest taking these research findings to a reputable and licensed acupuncturist to get this done in those who are interested.

Watch a video showing how a tonsillectomy is performed here!

Acupuncture instead of codeine for tonsillectomy pain in children. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology Volume 77, Issue 12 , Pages 2058-2062, December 2013

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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