Traditional and Battlefield Acupuncture Provide Post-Op Pain Relief and Reduced Need for Opioids

PainRelief.com Interview with:

  • Brinda Krish, D.O., lead author of the study and an anesthesiology resident at Detroit Medical Center.
  • Padmavathi Patel, M.D., principal investigator of the study and Medical Director, Northstar Anesthesia at John D. Dingell Veteran Hospital.

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Dr. Padmavathi Patel: Pain is a major contributor to health care costs and a common cause of long-term disability (about  $61.2 billion/year) in lost productivity due to pain.

acupuncture

76.2 million Americans (one in four) have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours (2013).

Numerous literature such as:

1. “Use of prescription opioids in the treatment of pain has increased notably over recent decades.”

2. “Rates of death from prescribed opioids increased four fold between 2000 and 2014.”

3. “16,651 opioid related deaths in 2010.”

4. “The problem of opioid overuse and dependence is seen in the military as well as in civilian.”

-Opioid-related side effects could lead to a delay in recovery.
-Pain control is more challenging for military population.
-More extensive injuries and greater pain severity is seen in survivors of combat- related blast injuries compared to those of non-blast civilians and also they require larger opioid doses.
-Pain is a very common patient complaint, both in veteran and non-veteran populations.
-Among the 5.7 million unique patients seen annually with in the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), more than half of these patients experience chronic pain.

In 2017, The DVA and the United States Department of Defense (DoD) published an updated guidelines on opioid therapy for chronic pain that strongly recommends against initiation of long-term opioid use and recommends alternatives, including non-pharmacologic therapy, such as Acupuncture, which has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of painful conditions.

Acupuncture techniques have been in existence for centuries, with roots tied to Eastern Asia. Traditional acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles at specific trigger points around the body to relieve pain. Battlefield acupuncture (BFA), developed by a U.S. Air Force doctor uses needles that are inserted at various trigger points in the ear. In 2013, $5.4 million was awarded to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to teach BFA to healthcare providers in both the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs and assess it.  In light of the opioid epidemic, there is a strong need to decrease perioperative opioid use. Opioid use due to postoperative pain along with perioperative anxiety has been linked to increased length of hospital stay, increased morbidity and mortality, and ultimately higher healthcare costs.

Battlefield acupuncture was introduced into Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the last few years and in VHA, clinicians of various disciplines (MDs, DOs, PAs, nurse-practitioners), can currently obtain clinical privilege to provide it.

I received the Battlefield acupuncture training at John D. Dingell VA medical Center, Detroit and I was surprised with the outcomes of chronic pain patients. As an anesthesiologist I know pain after the surgery is common, often severe and largely unnecessary. I discussed these concerns with the surgeons and created the protocol to use BFA for general surgical patients and traditional acupuncture for hip replacement patients as an adjuvant to the standard protocol for acute post-surgical pain control.

Effective relief of postoperative pain is vital. Such pain probably prolongs hospital stay, as it can affect all the organ systems with side effects. Post op pain remains grossly under treated, with up to 70% of patients reporting moderate to severe pain following surgery.

Multimodal pain control not only can result in earlier discharge from hospital, but it may also reduce the onset of chronic pain syndromes.

2 studies performed TA (n=21), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=21).  BFA (n=28), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=36). Measured variables included post-operative opioid requirements, postoperative pain, the incidence of PONV, and patient satisfaction scores

Key conclusions use of Battlefield acupuncture and Traditional acupuncture reduced post-operative opioid requirements, post-operative pain scores (pain intensity) and increased patient satisfaction scores.  BFA also reduced PONV in patients.  

Wide Variation in Opioid Prescribing for Pain Relief Following Knee Arthroscopy

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Benjamin Ukert PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management
Texas A&M

Mucio Kit Delgado, MD, MS
Department of Emergency Medicine
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The opioid epidemic has received a lot of attention and many state policies have been passed to address excessive opioid prescribing and highlight the dangers of opioid use initiation for those who have never been exposed to opioids. We also now know that most patients prescribed opioids for post-operative pain have significant quantities of pills leftover. One study showed that after knee arthroscopy, 50% of patients took no opioids, and 90% took less than 5 pills (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7190545/).

We thought to investigate whether overprescribing is still common, and asked the question whether we now observe low levels of prescribing following knee arthroscopy and whether there are differences in prescribing practices across states.

Total Hip Replacement Can Be Safely Performed with Minimal Opioids for Pain Relief

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Andrew Wickline MD FAAOS
New Hartford, NY 13413

MedicalResearch.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Joint replacement has long been synonymous with pain relief–but not until 6-12 weeks after surgery.  Many patients put off joint replacement due to fear and anxiety–particularly about the possible pain after surgery often seen in the first several months.  Opioids have long been the mainstay of controlling pain after surgery but are associated with significant side effects and risk for addiction and injury. 

Our study shows that with our comprehensive protocol, 97% of patients can have successful surgical recovery with little to no opioids being necessary to stay comfortable.  Additionally, it shows that 94% of patients can go home within 24 hours and 95% will likely need no post-operative therapy to recover.

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Surgery vs Conservative Care Pain Relief from for Persistent Sciatica

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Dr. Chris Bailey
Western Bone and Joint Institute

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study? 

Response: Acute and subacute sciatica from a lumbar disc herniation is recognized to have a very good natural history with approximately 90% making significant improvement within 4 months of onset.  Hence, studies have shown that surgery for disc herniation has a short-term benefit over non-operative care. 

In many cases, the patients not receiving surgery will improve to the level of those receiving surgery by 6 months (Peul et al, 2007).  Chronic sciatica we felt was a different situation.  

What are the main findings?

Response: Our study confirmed that surgery has a greater advantage for these patients out to 1 year following surgery.  An unpublished stat from our work found that there is a 70% greater chance of significant improvement in sciatica with surgery compared to non-operative care (including physiotherapy, education, medications, and epidural injections).  We recommend that a referral is made to a surgeon for these patients as the likelihood of improvement without surgery is much less than for acute sciatic.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response:  Previous studies have also had a difficult time controlling for cross-over and maintaining distinct treatment cohorts.  Our study was designed in such a way to utilized the inherent wait times for consultation in our Canadian health care system so to prevent crossover from the non-op group to the surgical group.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our plan is to perform future cost effectiveness analysis and publish on long term outcomes as well.

Citation:

Surgery versus Conservative Care for Persistent Sciatica Lasting 4 to 12 Months
Chris S. Bailey, M.D., Parham Rasoulinejad, M.D., David Taylor, M.D., Keith Sequeira, M.D., Thomas Miller, M.D., Jim Watson, M.D., Richard Rosedale, P.T., Stewart I. Bailey, M.D., Kevin R. Gurr, M.D., Fawaz Siddiqi, M.D., Andrew Glennie, M.D., and Jennifer C. Urquhart, Ph.D
Nengl j med 382;12 nejm.org March 19, 2020

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Chronic Back and Knee Pain Relief: How Do Sham Procedures Compare to Surgery?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Wayne B Jonas MD

Wayne B Jonas MD

H&S Ventures
Samueli Integrative Health Programs

MedicalResearch.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The findings of this study are based on a systematic review of 25 randomized clinical trials evaluating surgical type interventions (open surgeries, arthroscopic, endoscopic, laparoscopic, heart catheterization, radiofrequency, laser, and other interventions) for chronic back and knee pain. In each study, researchers had also performed sham procedures on a control group where they replicated the invasive procedure by omitting the step believed to be therapeutically necessary. The purpose of this it to determine how much of the effects are due to the placebo response.

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Variety of Pain Relief Medications Reduced Opioid Usage in Trauma Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Christine S. Cocanour, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.C.C.M.
Division of Trauma, Acute Care Surgery and Surgical Critical Care 
UC Davis Health

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Our critical care pharmacists (Duby, Hamrick and Lee) and surgeons (Cocanour, Beyer) wanted to decrease our use of opioids without compromising pain control in our trauma patients—especially those that were admitted to the ICU.  To help make more appropriate choices we put together an order set that was a multimodal approach to pain management. 

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