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Acupuncture shows stronger and quicker pain relieving effect than morphine in emergency patients with renal colic

Objective: The objective of this study was to compare the analgesic effect and tolerance profile of acupuncture versus intravenous (IV) titrated morphine in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with renal colic.

Materials and methods: A total of 115 patients were randomized into two groups. Patients in the IV titrated-morphine group (n=61) received 0.1 mg/kg morphine every 5 minutes until pain score dropped by at least 50% of its baseline value. Patients in the acupuncture group (n=54) received an acupuncture session of 30 minutes following a pre-specified protocol. The visual analog scale (VAS) was used to assess pain intensity at baseline and at 10, 20, 30, 45, and 60 minutes following the start of the treatment protocol. Possible treatment side effects were also recorded.

Results: No significant differences were found between the two groups concerning age, sex, or baseline VAS score. From the 10th minute until the end of the intervention, acupuncture was associated with a deeper analgesic effect than titrated morphine (p<0.05 from the 10th minute and over). Analgesia was also faster in the acupuncture group, with time to obtain 50% reduction of baseline VAS of 14 minutes in the acupuncture group versus 28 minutes in the IV titrated-morphine group (p<0.001). Only three patients in the acupuncture group experienced minor side effects versus 42 in the morphine group (p<0.001). No major side effects were observed in this study.

Conclusion: In ED patients with renal colic, acupuncture was associated with a much faster and deeper analgesic effect and a better tolerance profile in comparison with titrated IV morphine.

Source: Beltaief K, et al. Acupuncture versus titrated morphine in acute renal colic: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pain Research 2018;11:335-341.

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