Purpose: Acupuncture is frequently used to manage the side effects associated with cancer therapy. In acupuncture practice, the presence of thrombocytopenia is a relative contraindication to acupuncture use among patients with cancer. However, the safety of acupuncture in patients with cancer treatment-related thrombocytopenia has not been previously investigated.
Methods: Medical records of 32 patients receiving acupuncture at an academic medical center with an established acupuncture program during treatment for cancer or during stem cell transplantation were reviewed.
Results: Of 237 acupuncture sessions, 20%, 8%, and 19% of the sessions were administered to patients with severe, moderate, and mild thrombocytopenia, respectively. No bleeding side effects were observed.
Conclusions: This retrospective case series provides descriptive data on the safety of acupuncture using Japanese J-type Seirin needles, with mild manual stimulation administered at 0.5-cun depth in patients with cancer with and without thrombocytopenia. Prospective trials are needed to confirm these initial observations.