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Acupuncture used during heart surgery
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Shanhai Renji Hospital yesterday announced the nation's first successful heart by-pass surgery via acupuncture and a small amount of intravenous medication as an anesthetic.

The method shortens the recovery time, limits postoperative complications and it's also less expensive. Still, medical experts said not all such patients are suitable for the procedure.

During the surgery on December 4, doctors put six acupuncture needles in the chest and wrist of a 78-year-old patient with myocardial infarction to perform electro-acupuncture as an anesthetic. A small amount of intravenous medication was given to maintain the effects of the anesthetic.

Generally, this type of surgery uses a big dose of anesthesia and a respirator. With the acupuncture method, the patient doesn't need a respirator. A laryngeal mask was used instead.

"The patient was sleeping lightly, which means the doctor can wake the patient during surgery for communication if necessary," said Huang Huan, a Renji official. "Without a general anesthetic and respirator, the patient is more relaxed during surgery. He sat up within hours after surgery and left the intensive care unit under his own power the next day. A traditional anesthetic could have kept him in the ICU for two or three days."

According to experts, heart surgery with acupuncture anesthesia is difficult and doctors need to be highly skilled to attempt the procedure.

(Shanghai Daily December 26, 2007)

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