Acupuncture replaces anesthetics in Iraqi Cesarean sections

Doctors who face a shortage of anesthetic drugs and expertise in war-torn Iraq have successfully used acupuncture techniques for Cesarean section deliveries, according to a new small study.

The researchers said that if their results were replicated in a larger study, such practices could be a useful addition to standard medical practice in fully equipped hospitals.

Acupuncture was used in 200 cases of emergency Cesarean section deliveries at the Red Crescent Hospital for Gynecology and Obstetrics in Baghdad between 2004 and 2006. Given the dangers of even crossing the city, most women were advised to have their babies at home, meaning that only those at greatest risk of problem births came to the hospital.

The technique was used to counter the effects of halothane, which relaxes the womb, but carries an increased risk of bleeding as a result. Oxytocin is normally used to counteract these effects, but was in short supply at the time.

As soon as possible after delivery, six acupuncture needles were inserted into the mother’s toes and ankles and manually stimulated for five to ten minutes. The acupuncture points relate to bleeding from the womb, prolapse of the womb, difficult labour, uterine contractions and retention of the placenta.

In almost half the women, uterine contraction was deemed to be sufficient so as to warrant no oxytocin. A further one in three required two units, and almost one in five required two to five units of oxytocin.

Only four women needed more than five units. The standard requirement for oxytocin for this procedure would normally be ten to 20 units.

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