Acupuncture to Reduce General Anesthesia (AAEP 2011)

Acupuncture to Reduce General Anesthesia (AAEP 2011)

There was no significant difference between groups in duration of anesthesia, physiologic parameters, or recovery quality. However, the electroacupuncture-treated horses exhibited a significantly deeper depth of anesthesia compared to controls.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

 

After reading about a study in which electroacupuncture reduced dogs’ need for general anesthetics for some surgical procedures, a research team wondered if the same might be true for horses.

“Inhalant anesthetics are commonly used to maintain general anesthesia in horses,” explained Laura Romanò, DVM, a private practitioner from Italy, during the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners annual convention held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas.

However, compared with other species, horses have a higher risk of cardiac (heart) problems and myopathy (muscle problems) associated with general anesthesia. Thus, reducing the amount of anesthetic required in horses could minimize these undesirable side effects.

Anesthetic delivery to any patient is adjusted continually throughout an anesthetic session to maintain the desired depth of anesthesia and the patient’s physiologic parameters (heart/respiratory rates, etc.). Thus, if outside factors (such as acupuncture) increase the patient’s level of sedation, then less anesthetic drug would be necessary.

To definitively answer the question of whether acupuncture could decrease anesthetic requirements, Romanò and colleagues applied 30 minutes of electroacupuncture at nine acupoints on 10 horses undergoing general anesthesia for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. They compared these horses’ physiologic parameters to those of five horses that did not undergo electroacupuncture for similar exams. Alveolar (in the lung) concentrations of the general anesthetic drug isoflurane, body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, depth of anesthesia, and quality of recovery were measured r estimated for each horse throughout the examination.

Romanò reported there was no significant difference between groups in duration of anesthesia, physiologic parameters, or recovery quality. However, the electroacupuncture-treated horses exhibited a significantly deeper depth of anesthesia compared to controls. They also had 31.3% lower alveolar concentrations of isoflurane compared to previous research and control groups, indicating that less anesthetic was given to these horses.

“Electroacupuncture decreases the isoflurane requirement in horses undergoing general anesthesia … and (it) could be considered a valid tool as part of a multimodal anesthetic approach,” Romanò summarized. “This is a quick application that fits into routine practice for every general anesthesia case (surgical or not). This procedure would also have possible use in horses with hepatic (liver) dysfunction or renal (kidney) failure to reduce the medications they would need to metabolize.”

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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