Acupuncture for Appendicitis & Hyperemesis
The development for protocols within the acupuncture profession for emergency medical interventions is a necessary component for successful clinical outcomes in the hospital setting. At the moment, most licensed acupuncturists have a hands-off approach to emergency interventions for several reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that there are legal barriers to using acupuncture in emergency situations. The second is that there is no mechanism to insert the services of a licensed acupuncturist within existing emergency procedures. I’d like to highlight one important example wherein the lack of protections to the acupuncturist and the lack of understanding, acceptance and utilization of acupuncture within the hospital setting ultimately leads to expensive and poor clinical outcomes.
The great Prof. Wae Shui spoke out on the lack of acupuncture as an available procedure for the treatment of acute and chronic appendicitis. He noted that appendicitis rarely requires more than two acupuncture treatments and that after treated, appendicitis does not recur. He wrote that acupuncture treatments for appendicitis are not only treatments for the existing condition but are also preventative of further recurrence. He wrote, “For severe cases, even if an operation is considered necessary, why do we not first try acupuncture during the preparation for the operation?” He suggests using the acupuncture points: Zusanli (ST36, Leg Three Miles), Lanweixue (M-LE-13, Appendix Point) or Shangjuxu (ST37, Upper Great Void) and either Daju (ST27, The Great) or Mangchang (Appendix Point) needled on the right side of the body. Mangchang is 0.5 cun above Dazhu (UB11, Great Shuttle). Prof. Shui noted that acupuncture lessens the acute danger, eases the entire situation and potentially allows for delaying the operation such that the acupuncturist may continue needle manipulation techniques to resolve the condition.
Prof. Wae Shui, a trained surgeon, notes that an appendectomy is justified if inflammation continues to lead to a situation of suppuration. However, he notes that modern research demonstrates that the appendix is a valuable organ and should not be removed unless necessary. He was critical of surgeons removing healthy appendixes to avoid possible inflammation in the future citing that research from the University of Minnesota demonstrates that the appendix helps to produce powerful antibodies that help fight infection and that people whose appendixes have been removed have a higher incidence of cancer later in life.
This is but one example of the lack of integrating acupuncture into emergency medicine protocols leads to unnecessary surgical procedures. The timing isn’t quite right for this to come about on a large scale. In fact, there are no acupuncture licensing laws in six states. The political and regulatory conditions will need to improve before developing emergency medicine protocols becomes a high priority for acupuncturist organizations.
We must ask ourselves, what is ready for implementation on a large scale? Chronic and subacute conditions have long been the answer. However, something else is emerging within the hospital system. Acupuncture is now available on the hospital floor across the nation. It is not the standard but it is an emerging trend. The benefits to patients will ultimately be enormous as this outreach expands. For example, women bedridden in a hospital setting during pregnancy due to hyperemesis may no longer suffer from nausea and vomiting after a few acupuncture treatments.
This is a great example because modern research supports the application of acupuncture point P6 for the treatment of nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness. Further, there is no way for hospitalized patients to get up and walk out of the hospital to make their acupuncture appointments in the neighborhood. Yet, with all of the free time that a bedridden patient endures during a hospital stay, it is absurd that women suffering from hyperemesis do not have access to acupuncture therapy. The treatment is relatively non-invasive and has been successfully administered in several hospitals across the nation. It’s a great thing to let someone enjoy their pregnancy. That is why I like this example. It is simply a safe and effective way to avert suffering while at the same time providing affordable and effective healthcare. By establishing set acupuncture protocols for the treatment of hyperemesis in the hospital setting, acupuncturists will enable women to checkout of the hospital and return to their normal lives. This is better for the expectant mother, her baby and the entire healthcare system.