Background: We report on the design and implementation of a study protocol entitled Acupuncture randomised trial for post anaesthetic recovery and postoperative pain - a pilot study (ACUARP) designed to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy performed in the perioperative period on post anaesthetic recovery and postoperative pain. Methods/Design: The study is designed as a randomised controlled pilot trial with three arms and partial double blinding. We will compare (a) press needle acupuncture, (b) no treatment and (c) press plaster acupressure in a standardised anaesthetic setting. Seventy-five patients scheduled for laparoscopic surgery to the uterus or ovaries will be allocated randomly to one of the three trial arms. The total observation period will begin one day before surgery and end on the second postoperative day. Twelve press needles and press plasters are to be administered preoperatively at seven acupuncture points. The primary outcome measure will be time from extubation to `ready for discharge' from the post anaesthesia care unit (in minutes). The `ready for discharge' end point will be assessed using three different scores: the Aldrete score, the Post Anaesthetic Discharge Scoring System and an In-House score. Secondary outcome measures will comprise pre-, intra- and postoperative variables (which are anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting, concomitant medication). Discussion: The results of this study will provide information on whether acupuncture may improve patient post anaesthetic recovery. Comparing acupuncture with acupressure will provide insight into potential therapeutic differences between invasive and non-invasive acupuncture techniques.
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