Objective: Acupuncture has been shown to treat various medical conditions, including acute and chronic pain, and there is limited evidence that acupuncture produces anti-inflammatory effects. This pilot study evaluated the use of acupuncture to treat pain and determine if acupuncture can reduce the inflammatory response in pediatric patients diagnosed with acute appendicitis.
Design: This pilot study used convenience sampling and was conducted in the Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) of an urban tertiary care children's hospital. Patients conventionally evaluated and definitively diagnosed with appendicitis were eligible to voluntarily participate.
Intervention: The diagnostic homogeneity of the target population allowed for a standardized intervention protocol. A licensed acupuncturist performed a specific form of Japanese acupuncture known as the Kiiko Matsumoto Style on all study patients.
Outcome measures: Subjective pain was assessed immediately before the intervention and 20 minutes postintervention, using 3 measures: Faces Pain Scale-Revised (FPS-R), colored analog scale (CAS), and visual analog scale (VAS). Evidence of inflammation was assessed using two biomarkers: white blood cell (WBC) count and C-reactive protein (CRP). WBC and CRP were drawn and recorded 3 times: before the intervention, 2 minutes before removal of needles, and 30 minutes after needling.
Results: Six Latino/Hispanic patients (4 males, 2 females, median age=15 years) with no previous acupuncture experience participated in the study. Median pre/postacupuncture pain scores were as follows: FPS-R, 5 vs. 4; CAS, 6.1 vs. 4.8; VAS, 46 vs. 32. Median WBC (10(3)/μL) and CRP (mg/dL) across time were as follows: WBC, 13.2, 11.8, and 11.4; CRP, 4.5, 4.9, and 5.1. Median acupuncture duration was 28.5 minutes (range 22-32) and no complications were observed.
Conclusions: Pilot data suggest that acupuncture may be a feasible and effective treatment modality for decreasing subjective pain and inflammation as measured by WBC. Acupuncture may be a useful nonpharmacological PED intervention for treating patients with acute appendicitis pain.