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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2018 Sep 21. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001619. [Epub ahead of print]

Acupuncture as a Nonpharmacologic Treatment for Pain in a Pediatric Emergency Department.

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From the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine.
Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The City College of New York.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY.



With epidemic opioid deaths and abuse in the United States, government agencies recommend nonpharmacological treatments for pain. However nonopioid treatment options for moderate to severe pain in the pediatric emergency department (PED) are limited. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for pain. The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of using traditional acupuncture (TA) and battlefield acupuncture (BFA) in the treatment of pain in the PED.


A pediatric cohort treated with acupuncture for pain in an urban PED was assessed. All subjects received TA or BFA as treatment, and pre/postacupuncture pain scores, feedback, and adverse events were assessed. The primary outcome was a change in pain score.


Twelve patients received BFA, and 13 received TA for these pain conditions: headaches, sciatica, paraphimosis, torticollis, joint pains (knee, shoulder, jaw), sprains (foot, wrist, thumb), dysmenorrhea, otitis externa, sickle cell, and muscle knot. The mean ± SD pain score change, 5.8 ± 2.5 (P < 0.05; 95% confidence interval, 4.9-7.0), was clinically and statistically significant. Over 90% of subjects reported significant improvement or resolution of pain; 96% were satisfied with pain relief and would receive acupuncture again. Two adverse events were noted: one patient reported dizziness, and another, a tinge of blood at 1 of 90 needled points.


This study suggests that acupuncture is a potential nonpharmacologic therapeutic option for acute pain management in the PED.

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