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Is it safe to give auricular acupuncture to a patient who has cardiomyopathy

A:  As far as we are aware there are no contraindications for the use of acupuncture, either traditional or auricular, with patients who have cardiomyopathy. In fact, if you undertake internet searches you will find a number of papers, most written in Chinese and published in China, which suggest that acupuncture treatment can be used to good effect in the treatment of some aspects of cardiomyopathy. The studies we found tend to use auricular acupuncture.

The normal safety standards which apply to the use of auricular acupuncture should be perfectly adequate for the protection of the patient with this condition, and the only slight concern we have raised in our members' Guide to Safe Practice is the use of retained needles when a patient has a history of heart valve problems. The section reads:

Patients who have damaged heart valves (eg after rheumatic fever) or artificial valves are at a higher risk of developing endocarditis. Retained needles, a category which includes ear needles, dermal needles and press studs which can be left in place for days, are contraindicated for these patients as they can become infected and cause endocarditis.

This is a very different kind of condition, so unless there is a secondary problem beyond the cardiomyopathy there is no reason not to proceed. 

We did find, however, one study (reference 18) referred to in another article

which suggested that in one case there had been unwanted changes as a consequence of treating specific points, so if you have any concerns about the patient based on his or her presentation you could always, with their consent, approach their GP to ensure that it is OK to treat. This is the advice which we invariably give to BAcC members if they are not sure.

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