Acupuncture is a feasible treatment for post-thoracotomy pain: results of a prospective pilot trial
1 Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
3 Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
4 Department of Anesthesiology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
BMC Anesthesiology 2006, 6:5 doi:10.1186/1471-2253-6-5Published: 3 May 2006
Thoracotomy is associated with severe pain that may persist for years. Acupuncture is a complementary therapy with a proven role in pain control. A randomized trial showed that acupuncture was effective in controlling pain after abdominal surgery, but the efficacy of this technique for the treatment of thoracotomy pain has not been established. We developed a novel technique for convenient application of acupuncture to patients undergoing thoracotomy, and in a Phase II trial evaluated the safety of this intervention and the feasibility of doing a randomized trial.
Adult patients scheduled for unilateral thoracotomy with preoperative epidural catheter placement received acupuncture immediately prior to surgery. Eighteen semi-permanent intradermal needles were inserted on either side of the spine, and four were inserted in the legs and auricles. Needles were removed after four weeks. Using a numerical rating scale, pain was measured on the first five postoperative days. After discharge, pain was assessed using the Brief Pain Inventory at 7, 30, 60 and 90 days.
Thirty-six patients were treated with acupuncture. Of these, 25, 23, and 22 patients provided data at 30, 60, and 90 days, respectively. The intervention was well tolerated by patients with only one minor and transient adverse event of skin ulceration.
The rate of data completion met our predefined criterion for determining a randomized trial to be feasible (at least 75% of patients tolerated the intervention and provided evaluable data). This novel intervention is acceptable to patients undergoing thoracotomy and does not interfere with standard preoperative care. There was no evidence of important adverse events. We are now testing the hypothesis that acupuncture significantly adds to standard perioperative pain management in a randomized trial.