Acupuncture offers low cost alternative to knee surgery for osteoarthritis

August 20, 2012

The researchers base their findings on 90 patients with knee osteoarthritis, who were referred for group acupuncture to two knee pain clinics in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 2008 and subsequently monitored for two years.

The clinics were set up in 2008 for NHS patients, and run in two GP practices by specially trained acupuncture , to see whether this could improve care, while reducing costs, and offer a viable alternative to referrals for expensive .

This type of surgery works well, and provides value for money, say the authors. But it is not suitable for everyone, and as many as one in seven patients experience a few years after the procedure.

It also costs £5,000 a pop, and is common, causing significant pain in 17% of the UK population over the age of 50, they add.

Out of 114 patients who were offered acupuncture for osteoarthritic in 2008, 90 accepted and were treated in the clinics. Their average age was 71. All the patients referred to the clinics had severe symptoms - constant pain, including at night, and inability to walk far - and would have been eligible for surgery.

Fifty patients said they would be prepared to have surgery; four said they would only have the operation as a last resort; and 29 said they did not want surgery.

They were given acupuncture once a week for a month after which the frequency was reduced to a session every six weeks.

Forty one patients were still attending the clinics after a year, and 31 were still receiving treatment after two years. Each patient received an average of 16.5 treatments.

A validated score (MYMOP), used to measure symptom control, functional capacity, and wellbeing, showed clinically significant improvements in pain levels, stiffness, and functional capacity after one month of treatment. These improvements continued throughout the two year monitoring period, as assessed by MYMOP at six monthly intervals.

Based on the assumption that only two thirds of patients would take up an offer of , the authors calculate that the service could save the NHS around £100,000 a year. Each treatment costs the NHS £20.

The authors also looked at the rates of total knee replacements for the three neighbouring commissioning groups after the service had been introduced.

They found that the group that had commissioned the service, which includes 13 general practices serving 180,000 , had the lowest rate, and that this was 10% lower than one of the other groups by 2011.

Explore further: Trial tests effectiveness of treatments for chronic neck pain

More information: A second small study in the journal shows that group acupuncture was popular with both nurses and patients, and in an accompanying podcast (snd.sc/NaCdbu), a patient who underwent the treatment describes what a difference it has made to her life.

www.aim.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10. … /acupmed-2012-010151
www.aim.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10. … /acupmed-2012-010150

Related Stories

Trial tests effectiveness of treatments for chronic neck pain

April 20, 2012
People with chronic neck pain in the York area are being offered the chance to take part in a major clinical trial into the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons and acupuncture sessions.

Recommended for you

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

Portable 3-D scanner assesses patients with elephantiasis

October 17, 2017
An estimated 120 million people worldwide are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that can cause major swelling and deformity of the legs, a condition known as elephantiasis. Health-care ...

New tools to combat kidney fibrosis

October 16, 2017
Interstitial fibrosis – excessive tissue scarring – contributes to chronic kidney disease, which is increasing in prevalence in the United States.

How hepatitis C hides in the body

October 13, 2017
The Hepatitis C (HCV) virus is a sly enemy to have in one's body. Not only does it manage to make itself invisible to the immune system by breaking down communication between the immune cells, it also builds secret virus ...

Largest study yet of malaria in Africa shows historical rates of infection

October 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the University of Oxford and the University of KwaZulu-Natal has conducted the largest-ever study of the history of malaria ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.