Electro-Acupuncture Effective for Anesthesia During in Vitro Fertilization

Emma Hitt, PhD

October 20, 2003

Oct. 20, 2003 — Electro-acupuncture appears to be an effective alternative to conventional anesthesia during egg collection (ovum pickup) for in vitro fertilization.

Peter S. Humaidan, MD, from the Viborg Hospital in Skive, Denmark, and colleagues presented their findings in an oral presentation at the 59th annual meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in San Antonio, Texas.

According to the researchers, previous use of electro-acupuncture suggests that it is more time-consuming than conventional anesthesia. In the current study, electro-acupuncture was applied a few minutes before ovum pickup, "making it more attractive for clinical use," the authors note in the study abstract.

In their prospective, randomized trial, Dr. Humaidan and colleagues compared duration, costs, patient compliance, and anesthetic/analgesic efficacy of electro-acupuncture to that of conventional anesthesia.

A total of 200 patients undergoing in vitro fertilization and ovum pick-up were randomized to receive electro-acupuncture and paracervical block or to conventional aesthesia with premedication, intravenous alfentanil, and paracervical block.

Anxiety before and pain level before, during, and after the procedure were measured using a visual analog scale (VAS). After leaving the clinic, patients continued to rate their pain every six hours for 24 hours.

Anxiety, expected pain, and pain levels before the procedure, as measured by VAS, were similar between the two groups. Likewise, pain levels after the procedure, both at the clinic and at home, were similar.

In contrast, when pain was assessed during the ovum pickup procedure, the group receiving electro-acupuncture had significantly higher VAS pain scores compared with the conventional anesthesia. "Nevertheless, 87% of patients would prefer electro-acupuncture again for ovum pickup," the researchers note.

"Generally patients were very positive to electro-acupuncture, feeling less confused and more present during the ovum pickup, and without tiredness and drowsiness for the rest of the day," they add.

The use of supplementary painkillers was similar between the two groups as was preparation and procedure time. In addition, high pregnancy rates per embryo transferred were seen in both groups.

However, costs and time to discharge were lower for the electro-acupuncture group.

"Electro-acupuncture is a good alternative to conventional anesthetics during ovum pickup, with a high patient compliance," the researchers conclude.

ASRM 2003 Annual Meeting: Abstract O-250. Presented Oct. 15, 2003.

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD


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