The Safety of Acupuncture in Patients with Cancer Therapy-Related Thrombocytopenia

Med Acupunct. 2015 Jun 1;27(3):224-229. doi: 10.1089/acu.2015.1099.


Background: Acceptance of acupuncture as an efficacious integrative modality for oncology-related side-effect management is rapidly expanding. It is imperative that guidelines regarding safe treatment supported by clinical experience are established. Oncology patients frequently experience thrombocytopenia as a side-effect of chemotherapy or radiation. However, safety data for acupuncture in adult patients with cancer who are thrombocytopenic is lacking. Materials and Methods: The medical records of 684 patients who received acupuncture treatments in an established acupuncture program at a private cancer treatment hospital were reviewed for adverse events occurring within the context of thrombocytopenia. Results: Of 2135 visits eligible for evaluation, 98 individual acupuncture visits occurred in patients with platelet counts <100,000/μL, including nine visits in which platelet counts were <50,000/μL. No adverse events of increased bruising or bleeding were noted. Medications and nutritional supplements or botanicals that may influence coagulation were also tabulated, with no apparent adverse events in this patient population. Conclusions: Discrepancies in the literature highlight the need to create cohesive safety guidelines backed by clinical research, specifically for groups at higher risk for adverse events. The preliminary evidence put forth in this study lays the foundation that supports the notion that acupuncture can be used safely with a high-need oncology population within an integrated model of care. In this descriptive retrospective case series of adult oncology patients with thrombocytopenia, no adverse events of increased bruising or bleeding were documented. Prospective trials are needed to confirm these initial observations.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Oncology; Platelets; Safety; Thrombocytopenia.