Thursday, March 17th, 2016...10:00 am

Acupuncture Anesthesia

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This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items recently cataloged from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.Img0044

In the 1950s Chinese physicians in the People’s Republic of China began to wonder if acupuncture, which was typically used to treat pain, could actually be used to prevent pain during surgical procedures, which led to what we refer to here as acupuncture anesthesia.   The volume Acupuncture Anesthesia was published by a division of Pfizer Pharamaceuticals during a closed-circuit symposium in 1974.


Most of the illustrations that are pictured in this volume come from the film “Acupuncture Anaesthesia” produced by the Shanghai Film Studio, which was telecast during the symposium.  The stills shown to the left are from a craniotomy using acupuncture anesthesia.  First they prepare the patient, then the neurosurgeon drills a burr hole before removing the bone flap, and the final image is after the surgery where they are testing cranial nerve function. Img0048 Acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel and vary in both length and thickness.  According to this volume one metal has never been proved superior to another so stainless steel is typically used because of the low cost.  Besides a straight needle other types are often used by acupuncturists as well.  In the image below are a few other examples, the triangular shaped points are used for releasing blood and the round needles for massage.  One that I had never seen before is the mallet which has seven small needles clustered in the head and is typically used for children in a rapid, tapping movement.   Img0047

To learn more about our views of acupuncture in the 1970s you can find Acupuncture anesthesia.  New York : Pfizer, 1974. RD85.A25 A18 1974 in Countway’s collection.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, and Joan Thomas, Rare Book Cataloger at Countway for contributing this post. 

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