Women may be on pins and needles before undergoing an hysterectomy procedure, but according to a new study, the needles used in acupuncture may be exactly what's needed to lower the risk of infection following the operation.
A hysterectomy involves removal of a woman's uterus, and a radical hysterectomy may affect urination while nerves in the region recover from surgery. The new clinical trial examined 120 women between the ages of 20 to 65, who were randomly divided into two groups: an acupuncture treatment group and a sham acupuncture control group, also known as a placebo form of acupuncture. None of the women had any prior acupuncture experience.
The researchers initiated acupuncture on the sixth day following radical hysterectomy. They focused on points Sanyinjiao (right above the ankle), Zusanli (below the kneecap), Shuidao (belly) and scalp, with a needle insertion of 22 millimeters. Manual needle manipulation techniques were used to elicit deqi, often described as a sensation of soreness, pressure or heaviness. Deqi is essential for clinical efficacy according to traditional Chinese medicine.
Patients also received electroacupuncture to a few acupressure points. Meanwhile, sham acupuncture employed the insertion of a single acupuncture point to a depth of 3 millimeters.
In contrast with the sham control group, the acupuncture treatment group showed a significant reduction of urinary tract infection. Patients reported improved bladder function in terms of bladder compliance, decreased bladder sensory loss, incontinence and flow rate after two weeks following the operation.
"Acupuncture has positive effects on nerve regeneration process and provides an alternative treatment on nerve-injured patients," the researchers explained in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Thus, the researchers concluded that acupuncture in healing improves post-operative bladder function and drops the frequency of bladder disorder. They noted that both manual and electrical stimulation of the pudendal nerves may be responsible for the patient outcomes.
In addition, the investigative team cite other studies that needle acupoints below the kneecap and above the ankle to regulate neurotransmitters, including catecholamines. One physiologic purpose of the catecholamines is to aid in smooth muscle relaxation. They said this may play a role in the mechanisms of acupuncture to reduce post-operative complications.
Ilchi Lee, a New York Times best-selling author, adds out that acupuncture's healing benefits span beyond medical operations. Everyone from athletes to mailman to new mothers utilize the ancient Chinese technique to boost recovery times from injuries from work or recreational activities.