Acupuncture after lymph node removal?

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Question from Becca: Is it ok to get acupuncture needles in the arm of someone whose lymph nodes have been removed if there are no symptoms of lymphedema? I have heard that the needles are so fine and sterile that there is no risk, but others advise against it.
Answers - Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. If someone has had a complete axillary node dissection, then any invasion into the affected arm can increase the risk of developing lymphedema. If someone has had a sentinel node biopsy alone, the risk is far less than with a complete axillary node dissection. My personal recommendation for my patients would be to avoid needles in that arm and discuss with their acupuncturist what alternative forms of energy therapy they could perform with the affected extremity. The acupuncturist who works with my patients chooses to use tuning forks and sound, but this may vary from therapist to therapist and should be discussed prior to the treatment.
Mary Ellen Scheckenbach I agree 100 percent with Dr. Dupree, and I personally have done treatments on the affected arm with no ill effects. However, again, I do agree with Dr Dupree.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Acupuncture and Touch Therapies featured Mary-Ellen Scheckenbach, M.Ac., Tracy Walton, L.M.T., M.S., and moderator Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about acupuncture and touch therapies.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in March 2005.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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