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      In-vivo visualisation of the anatomical structures related to the acupuncture points Dai mai and Shen mai by MRI: A single-case pilot study

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          The concept of acupuncture point localisation in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on millenary practical experience. Modern imaging methods such as PET, MRI and SPECT have been used primary for the investigation of the mechanisms of action of acupuncture. In this pilot single-case study we have evaluated the technical possibilities for in-vivo imaging of the anatomical relations of acupuncture points using state of the art MRI.


          Preliminary experiments relating to the quality of acupuncture needles under the setting of MRI were done both with stainless steel and gold needles. In a second step, in-vivo imaging was carried out. A licensed acupuncture practitioner (RM) chose two points belonging to the so-called extraordinary vessels. In 2 sequential, separate procedures, he inserted himself gold acupuncture needles using a neutral technique (known as Ping Bu Ping Xie) into the Dai mai and Shen mai points, i.e. gall bladder 26 and bladder 62. Imaging was done on a Siemens Magnetom Avanto MR scanner using a head array and body coil. Mainly T1-weighted imaging sequences, as routinely used for patient exams, were used to obtain multi-slice images.


          In the preliminary experiments only acupuncture needles made of gold showed enough stability in order to be used for further imaging procedures. Using an onion and a banana as an object, further studies showed that the gold needles produced a void defect that corresponds to the tip of the inserted needle, while at the same time an artefactually increased diameter was observed. The in-vivo experiments showed that the Dai mai point was in relation to the abdominal internal oblique muscle. The Shen mai point artefact showed up close to the longus and brevis peroneal tendons at the fibular malleolus. Side effects related to heating or burning were not observed. Improved anatomical recognition was obtained using 3D-volume rendering techniques.


          Through an adequate choice of acupuncture material (gold needles) as well as of ideal MRI imaging sequences it has been possible to visualize the anatomical characteristics at the acupuncture points Dai mai and Shen mai in-vivo. At the selected sites the needles showed a relation to tendino-fascial and muscular structures. These anatomical structures fit well into the recently described WOMED concept of lateral tension in which these acupuncture points play a regulatory role.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes.

          Acupuncture meridians traditionally are believed to constitute channels connecting the surface of the body to internal organs. We hypothesize that the network of acupuncture points and meridians can be viewed as a representation of the network formed by interstitial connective tissue. This hypothesis is supported by ultrasound images showing connective tissue cleavage planes at acupuncture points in normal human subjects. To test this hypothesis, we mapped acupuncture points in serial gross anatomical sections through the human arm. We found an 80% correspondence between the sites of acupuncture points and the location of intermuscular or intramuscular connective tissue planes in postmortem tissue sections. We propose that the anatomical relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes is relevant to acupuncture's mechanism of action and suggests a potentially important integrative role for interstitial connective tissue. Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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            Trigger points and acupuncture points for pain: correlations and implications.

            Trigger points associated with myofascial and visceral pains often lie within the areas of referred pain but many are located at a distance from them. Furthermore, brief, intense stimulation of trigger points frequently produces prolonged relief of pain. These properties of trigger points--their widespread distribution and the pain relief produced by stimulating them--resemble those of acupuncture points for the relief of pain. The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between trigger points and acupuncture points for pain on the basis of two criteria: spatial distribution and the associated pain pattern. A remarkably high degree (71%) of correspondence was found. This close correlation suggests that trigger points and acupuncture points for pain, though discovered independently and labeled differently, represent the same phenomenon and can be explained in terms of the same underlying neural mechanisms. The mechanisms that play a role in the genesis of trigger points and possible underlying neural processes are discussed.
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              Investigating Acupuncture Using Brain Imaging Techniques: The Current State of Play

              We have systematically researched and reviewed the literature looking at the effect of acupuncture on brain activation as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. These studies show that specific and largely predictable areas of brain activation and deactivation occur when considering the traditional Chinese functions attributable to certain specific acupuncture points. For example, points associated with hearing and vision stimulates the visual and auditory cerebral areas respectively. Pain, however, is a complex matrix that is intimately intertwined with expectation. Acupuncture clearly affects this matrix in both specific and non-specific manner that is consistent with its specific clinical effects, as well as the effects of expectation on pain relief. This article summarizes the current imaging literature.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]WOMED, Karl-Kapferer-Strasse 5, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
                [2 ]Innsbruck Medical University, Dept. of Radiology I, Innsbruck, Austria
                [3 ]Hermes Medical Solutions AB, Skeppsbron 44, 111 30 Stockholm, Sweden
                BMC Med Imaging
                BMC Medical Imaging
                BioMed Central (London )
                14 March 2007
                : 7
                : 4
                Copyright © 2007 Moncayo et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Technical Advance

                Radiology & Imaging


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