Case Study: Pilot Testing of a Local Acupuncture Intervention Protocol for Burn Scars
Tuckey, CR; Kohut, SH; Edgar, DW
MetadataShow full metadata
Background Following burn injury and a prolonged duration of healing, scars may become hypertrophic, causing movement restriction, increased scar thickness, colour and pliability, and symptoms such as pain and itch. Acupuncture has emerged as a potentially beneficial treatment for neuroinflammation, which perpetuates the negative features of hypertrophic scars. The aim of this study was to pilot test an evidence-based methodology for applying and measuring the clinical effects of localised acupuncture for symptomatic scars, in a patient with a healed burn injury. Methods A 71-year-old caucasian male presented with a hypertrophic scar that was painful and itchy after burn injury and subsequent skin grafting. He received acupuncture and massage treatment local to his scar as per the local (verum) group of the author's clinical trial under recruitment. Needles were inserted around the circumference of the skin grafted area and adjacent to areas of raised scar tissue within the grafted area and stimulated via bi-directional rotation. Outcome measures included a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) for pain and itch, Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale (POSAS) self-assessment component and SF36 quality-of-life measure to capture any non-specific acupuncture effects. Conclusion Acupuncture applied locally around the scar was associated with short-term relief of symptoms and significantly reduced his subjective outcome measure scores relating to scar thickness, redness and pliability out to six months after injury. Some short-term increase in symptoms occurred on several occasions following treatment; however, treatment was well tolerated supporting the use of this protocol for a larger future clinical trial. Lay Summary Following injury to the skin, scars can become raised, red and reduce movement. Other common symptoms may include pain and itch. Previous studies suggest acupuncture may help symptomatic scars, but more research is needed to confirm this with larger samples of patients. This case study tested the active treatment protocol for a clinical trial using acupuncture on symptomatic scars. A 71-year-old white man had a burn scar on his torso after a workplace accident. His treatment involved scar massage and local acupuncture. The acupuncture needles were inserted around the skin graft borders and thickened bands of scar tissue. Outcomes were measured using surveys recording symptoms, scar characteristics and quality of life. These were used to assess treatment effect and how well the protocol was tolerated. Over the course of treatment both pain and itch improved This case report showed that the treatment protocol was well tolerated, and that local acupuncture was associated with improved scar symptoms and physical characteristics up to six months after injury.