ACUPUNCTURE-assisted anaesthesia (AAA) appears to be here to stay and many anaesthetists and surgeons in the country are going for workshops conducted by the Health Ministry.
Introduced here in 2012, the method is beginning to pick up steam as surgeons and even patients are beginning to warm up to AAA as it is cost effective, an expert says.
It is only 40% cheaper than conventional anaesthesia because less drugs are used for the procedure.
Acupuncture anaesthesia is a method that involves inserting a thin needle into the body at acupuncture points to produce an analgesic effect and reduces physiological changes during surgery.
Acupuncture has been used in pain management clinics in Malaysia for many years but it is only recently that AAA was introduced.
In the last two years, the AAA method was used for 50 cases in Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, (HRPB) but awareness of AAA’s availability among patients still needs to be increased.
HRPB Anaesthetic Department Head Dr Kavita M. Bhojwani said the hospital is working on spreading awareness of AAA and will come up with info sheets for patients.
“Towards the end of last year, not many patients opted for AAA and only two procedures – a thyroid gland procedure and an awake craniectomy for a brain tumour – were done using AAA .
“This year though, AAA was used for a breast lump excision, cardiac surgery and inguinal hernia repair.
“All the patients were satisfied with the technique and had minimal pain which was relieved with simple analgesics and none experienced any nausea or vomiting,” said Dr Kavita.
She said AAA can only be used in only certain types of procedures.
“The method is suitable for neurosurgery procedures like craniotomy and cranioplasty and general surgery like removing breast lumps, lymphomas, chemo ports and inguinal hernia,” she said.
According to Dr Kavita, the hospital has five AAA specialists, but workshops have been conducted for all the doctors in the Anaesthesia Department about the use of AAA in reducing pain, constant nausea and vomiting.
According to Dr Kavita, where AAA can be used, the method allows patients to remain awake and alert, reduces pain, lessens the use of sedative drugs.
She says the technique is suitable for high-risk patients with organ dysfunction and the success rate is around 80% to 90%.
“However, we make sure that we vet our patients by looking at their drug allergies, the type of surgery, their willingness to accept acupuncture and pain tolerance.
“This procedure is not suitable for those with dementia, schizophrenia, manic depressive psychosis, anxiety and panic disorders.”
She also said that non-Chinese people are very open to the procedure and have enquired about it.
“To be honest, Malays are more forthcoming and they want to know more about the procedure. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine but it’s good to see people from other races asking about it.
“At present, none of the district hospitals in Perak have AAA. Only the general hospital has it.”
Dr Kavita says the use of the method has its own challenges such as the lack of acupuncture equipment. The hospital only has two electro acupuncture machines, though the Health Ministry is working to acquire more of the equipment used for AAA.
AAA was first introduced at HRPB after a visit by Health ministry Director General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to the Shugang University in Shanghai in 2012.
Dr Noor Hisham performed the first thyroid surgery using AAA in HRPB, assisted by consultant surgeon Dr Yan Yang Wai, while Dr Kavita performed the acupuncture.
Last year, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the method, which is not meant replace conventional anaesthetics, would be introduced in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Putrajaya Hospital, and Selayang Hospital.