Written by Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated July 16, 2015

Acupuncture for treatment-induced leukopenia

Is it safe?

Adverse events

In about 8-10% of all patients, acupuncture causes mild, transient adverse effects such as pain, haematoma or bleeding at the site of needling.16,17 In addition, in rare cases complications due to tissue trauma, pneumothorax, cardiac tamponade or infection are on record.18 Risk of cross-infection of blood borne disease, particularly hepatitis B, is minimised by the use of sterile disposable needles, and immunisation of acupuncturists. Rare cases of fatalities after acupuncture treatment have been reported although causality was not confirmed in many of these reports.19

Contraindications

Professional bodies for acupuncture vary somewhat in defining contraindications, particularly in relation to pregnancy.1,20 Bleeding abnormalities and anticoagulant treatment, oedema, epilepsy, pregnancy and needle phobia are among those conditions that have been suggested as relative, or in some cases absolute, contra-indications. Some points are considered ‘forbidden’ or not to be used for acupuncture needling.

Interactions

None known, except for electro-acupuncture where the electrical current might interfere with pacemakers and is used with caution in epilepsy.20

Warnings

Strict asepsis and use of sterile disposable needles are mandatory to avoid infections. Some patients faint during acupuncture and should thus be treated lying down.

Citation

Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Acupuncture for treatment-induced leukopenia [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Acupuncture-for-treatment-induced-leukopenia. July 16, 2015.

Document history

Revised in July 2015 by Karen Pilkington.
Summary first published in April 2013, authored by Edzard Ernst.

References

  1. BAcC (British Acupuncture Council) website. Ten Top Things to Know. Available at: www.acupuncture.org.uk. Accessed 17th April 2015.
  2. Filshie, J., Cummings, M. Western medical acupuncture. In: Ernst, E., White, A.  (Eds). Acupuncture: A Scientific Appraisal. 1999. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp 31-59.
  3. White A; Editorial Board of Acupuncture in Medicine. Western medical acupuncture: a definition. Acupunct Med. 2009 27(1):33-5.
  4. White A, Ernst E. Introduction. In: Ernst, E., White, A. (Eds). Acupuncture: A Scientific Appraisal. 1999. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp1-10.
  5. Birch S, Kaptchuk T. History, nature and current practice of acupuncture: an East Asian perspective. In: Ernst, E., White, A.  (Eds). Acupuncture: A Scientific Appraisal. 1999. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp 11-30.
  6. Ahn AC, Colbert AP, Anderson BJ, Martinsen OG, Hammerschlag R, Cina S, Wayne PM, Langevin HM. Electrical properties of acupuncture points and meridians: a systematic review. Bioelectromagnetics. 2008 29(4):245-56.
  7. Zhao ZQ. Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Prog Neurobiol 2008; 84(4):355-375.
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  9. Molassiotis A, Fernadez-Ortega P, Pud D, Ozden G, Scott JA, Panteli V, Margulies A, Browall M, Magri M, Selvekerova S, Madsen E, Milovics L, Bruyns I, Gudmundsdottir G, Hummerston S, Ahmad AM, Platin N, Kearney N, Patiraki E. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Ann Oncol. 2005 16(4):655-63.
  10. Wei Z. Clinical observation on therapeutic effect of acupuncture at zusanli for leukopenia. J Tradit Chin Med 1998; 18: 94-5.
  11. Huang X, Chen H, Guo X et al. Treatment with cone moxibustion of chemotherapeutic leukocytopenia in 114 cases. J Tradit Chin Med 1993; 13: 266-7.
  12. Chen HL, Huang XM. Treatment of chemotherapy-induced leukocytopenia with acupuncture and moxibustion. [in Chinese]. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1991; 11: 350-2.
  13. Lu W, Hu D, Dean-Clower E et al. Acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced leukopenia: exploratory meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Soc Integr Oncol 2007; 5: 1-10.
  14. Lu W, Matulonis UA, Doherty-Gilman A et al. Acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced neutropenia in patients with gynecologic malignancies: a pilot randomized, sham-controlled clinical trial. J Altern Complement Med 2009; 15: 745-53.
  15. Han YF, Gong Z, Huang LQ et al. Clinical study on acupuncture for leukopenia induced by chemotherapy. [in Chinese]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu 2010; 30: 802-5.
  16. White A, Hayhoe S, Ernst E. Survey of Adverse Events Following Acupuncture Acupunct Med. 1997; 15:67-70.
  17. Witt CM, Pach D, Brinkhaus B, Wruck K, Tag B, Mank S, Willich SN. Safety of acupuncture: results of a prospective observational study with 229,230 patients and introduction of a medical information and consent form. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Apr;16(2):91-7. doi: 10.1159/000209315. Epub 2009 Apr 9.
  18. White A. A cumulative review of the range and incidence of significant adverse events associated with acupuncture. Acupunct Med. 2004; 22(3):122-123.
  19. Ernst E. Deaths after acupuncture: a systematic review. Int J Risk Safety 2010; 22(3):131-136.
  20. BMAS (British Medical Acupuncture Society). Code of Practice & Complaints Procedure. Version 9 December 2009. Available at: http://www.medical-acupuncture.co.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=HTz5FvjFjfA%3d&tabid=64. Accessed 21st July 2015.