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Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2009 May;10(3):291-6. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e318198afd6.

Using acupuncture for acute pain in hospitalized children.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Clinical study to determine the acceptability and feasibility of acupuncture for acute postoperative pain control in hospitalized children.


Nonrandomized clinical trial.


A single, tertiary referral pediatric intensive care unit.


A total of 20 patients aged 7 months to 18 years. Eleven of the patients had posterior spinal fusion surgery and the remaining nine patients had other surgical diagnoses.


Two 10- to 15-minute sessions of acupuncture 24-48 hours apart.


The treatment was highly accepted (27 patients were approached and 4 patients refused; of the 23 patients enrolled, 20 patients completed the study). Acupuncture was well tolerated by patients without adverse events related to treatment. In follow-up interviews, 70% of both parents and patients believed acupuncture helped the child's pain. Eighty-five percent of the parents said they would pay out of pocket for acupuncture if not covered by insurance. The pain scores, vital signs, and narcotic usage were recorded before and several times after acupuncture. In posterior spinal fusion patients, the mean pain scores (0-10) immediately before and 4 and 24 hours after acupuncture were: 3.7, 1.7, and 3.1, respectively, after the first acupuncture session and 3.7, 2.2, and 3.1, respectively, after the second session. In the other surgical cohort, the mean pain scores immediately before and 4 and 24 hours after the first session of acupuncture were 2.5, 0.3, and 1.6, respectively.


Our results support that acupuncture is highly accepted and feasible in critically ill, postoperative pediatric patients with acute pain. Our findings suggest that acupuncture may be a potentially useful adjunctive tool for acute pediatric postoperative pain management. A randomized, controlled clinical trial is warranted to confirm these findings.

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