Abdominal adhesions and acupuncture

Abdominal adhesions, characterized by the formation of scar tissue between abdominal tissues and organs, can have various causes, including abdominal surgeries, inflammation, and infections. While many adhesions are asymptomatic, they can lead to chronic abdominal pain, pelvic pain, female infertility, and intestinal obstruction. Diagnosing adhesions can be challenging as they do not show up on common imaging techniques, necessitating exploratory surgery for detection. Surgical intervention is often required to alleviate symptoms, but it carries the risk of forming additional adhesions.

However, an alternative therapy called acupuncture has shown promise in the management of abdominal adhesions. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves stimulating specific points on the body using thin needles. The practice is believed to enhance nerve function, improve blood flow to the abdomen, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain, although further research is needed to establish its efficacy in this area.

There have been case reports highlighting the potential benefits of acupuncture in treating intestinal obstruction caused by adhesions. In one such case, a 27-year-old man who had undergone an appendectomy presented with severe abdominal pain, distension, nausea, and vomiting. Alongside standard medical management, acupuncture was performed at specific acupoints, including CV12 and ST36, resulting in a noticeable improvement within six hours. Similarly, a 65-year-old woman with a history of abdominal surgery experienced significant abdominal pain and vomiting due to bowel obstruction. After acupuncture treatment at acupoints CV12, ST25, CV4, ST36, and PC6, her colostomy began to function within three hours.

These case reports demonstrate the potential effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving symptoms and promoting bowel function in cases of adhesive bowel obstruction. Supporting this notion, a research study conducted in China examined the effects of acupuncture on adhesive ileus, a common type of bowel obstruction resulting from abdominal surgery. The study involved 40 patients with adhesive ileus, who were divided into two groups: an acupoint group and a non-acupoint group. Both groups received standard treatment for adhesive ileus, but the acupoint group also underwent electroacupuncture at specific acupoints, including Zhigou (TE6) and Zusanli (ST36). The results showed that the acupoint group experienced faster relief from abdominal pain and distension compared to the non-acupoint group. Additionally, the acupoint group showed improved outcomes in terms of the time to first voluntary defecation and solid food intake.

While these case reports and research findings provide encouraging evidence for the potential benefits of acupuncture in treating abdominal adhesions and related complications.

Wen Q et al Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2012) 32:961-5

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