Acupuncture for surgery soon

PUTRAJAYA - Acupuncture may play a role in easing pain during surgery in the future when more people are trained for it, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The idea came about following a minor surgery to remove a thyroid nodule from a patient was successfully done with only acupuncture and minimal local anaesthesia administered at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital (RPBH) in Ipoh last month.

"It was a great success," said the Health Minister, adding that more surgeons needed to be trained in the procedure before it could be introduced to other hospitals.

Putrajaya Hospital surgical department head and consultant breast and endocrine surgeon Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the acupuncture anaesthesia at RPBH was the first done in Malaysia.

Dr Hisham, who performed the surgery, said needles were inserted at a few acupuncture points in the neck and around the patient's wrists, and mild electric currents were introduced to numb the patient throughout the surgery.

"The surgery took 35 minutes and no other medications were used apart from a small dosage of local anaesthesia to block the contraction of the muscles," he said in an interview here.

"The surgery went well and the patient was aware - before, during and after the surgery," he said, adding that the 65-year-old man was even able to speak to Liow through a video call about an hour after the surgery.

And, four hours after the surgery, the patient was discharged.

Dr Hisham said such a surgery was previously performed on patients who were given general anaesthesia, before local anaesthesia was used in recent years.

"It's not going to replace our traditional way of doing things in 'Western' medicine. But it just adds to our armamentarium of surgical services that we can provide for our patients," he added.

Nevertheless, Dr Hisham said acupuncture anaesthesia was in line with the pain-free hospital concept introduced by the ministry last December.

"A pain-free hospital encourages minimally-invasive procedures, optimum or adequate analgesics, and acupuncture to achieve better pain control," said Dr Hisham.

"The patient could also be discharged on the same day."

In China, acupuncture anaesthesia has been used for heart, brain and breast surgeries.