SHANGHAI: Surgeons here have successfully performed heart bypass surgery on an elderly patient using acupuncture instead of a general anesthetic.
The four-hour procedure was performed on a 76-year-old man at the Shanghai Renji Hospital earlier this month.
Doctors declared the operation a success yesterday and said it was the first time "acupuncture anesthesia" had been used for such a procedure.
The patient was first sedated using a standard intravenous anesthetic agent called propofol.
Yin Wenyuan, a doctor with the hospital's anesthesia department, said the surgery, which usually requires a general anesthetic, was conducted after six acupuncture needles were inserted into acupoints on the patient's chest and wrist.
The patient was unconscious during the entire procedure.
He was able to get out of bed the day after the procedure, doctors said, and was later discharged from hospital. He is now in a stable condition at home.
There are several advantages to using the method, he said.
"One benefit of acupuncture anesthesia is that it is a drug-free way to minimize pain," Yin said. "With anesthetics, patients often have to tolerate the pain and risk the side effects, or even need an increased dose to achieve the required effects. However, this does not happen with acupuncture."
Acupuncture anesthesia is also less expensive than general anesthetics.