Duke University Uses Acupuncture Anesthesia During Surgery

NBC video ran an interesting report about Duke University’s use of acupuncture anesthesia during surgery. Duke has a large, respected integrative medicine department, and I’m always pleased to learn what comes out of it.

Acupuncture anesthesia has been used in China for many years. Needles are put in the ear and at various points on the body. In his 1980’s 4 part PBS special “Healing in the Mind”, Bill Moyer devoted one segment to China, showing an open heart surgery using acupuncture for part of the anesthesia. Typically 30-50% less anesthesia is used. In the video, the patient is lucid and incredibly able to talk and answer basic questions (name, where are you, what is happening) during surgery. A screen was up below his head so that he wasn’t able to view his open chest cavity during the procedure. It is a truly amazing experience to watch, and was a pivotal moment in opening my mind to the possibilities of Chinese medicine. The Bill Moyer PBS video is likely available in the public libraries.

I use acupuncture anesthesia for myself during dental procedures. Last year I had a series of 5-7 superficial fillings drilled using only acupuncture anesthesia. I’ve done this many times over the past 8 years. For deeper fillings, particularly in the lower jaw some pharmaceuticals have been used, typically 25% of the usual dose. I feel even less is required. I have felt no pain whatsoever during these procedures.

In the 1972 the acupuncture anesthesia protocol was adapted for use for substance detoxification by Hong Kong neurosurgeon Dr. HL Wen. Dr. Wen did the surgical anesthesia protocol on a patient who (unbeknownst to him) was a morphine addict. On follow-up to the surgery, the patient reported that his morphine addiction had been cured. Curious and excited, Dr. Wen researched and developed the NADA protocol for substance abuse. Currently this NADA (National Auricular Detoxification Association) protocol is widely use in a large variety of clinical settings for all kinds of addictions, including smoking, drugs, alcohol, sugar & caffeine. I’ve been pleased with results I’ve seen in my clinic. KB