Ultrasound measurements of the distance between acupuncture needle tip at P6 and the median nerve

Streitberger, Konrad; Eichenberger, Urs; Schneider, Antonius; Witte, Steffen; Greher, Manfred (2007). Ultrasound measurements of the distance between acupuncture needle tip at P6 and the median nerve. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 13(5), pp. 585-91. Larchmont, N.Y.: Mary Ann Liebert 10.1089/acm.2007.6247

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BACKGROUND: Pericard 6 (P6) is one of the most frequently used acupuncture points, especially in preventing nausea and vomiting. At this point, the median nerve is located very superficially. OBJECTIVES: To investigate the distance between the needle tip and the median nerve during acupuncture at P6, we conducted a prospective observational ultrasound (US) imaging study. We tested the hypothesis that de qi (a sensation that is typical of acupuncture needling) is evoked when the needle comes into contact with the epineural tissue and thereby prevents nerve penetration. SETTINGS/LOCATION: The outpatient pain clinic of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. SUBJECTS: Fifty (50) patients receiving acupuncture treatment including P6 bilaterally. INTERVENTIONS: Patients were examined at both forearms using US (a 10-MHz linear transducer) after insertion of the needle at P6. OUTCOME MEASURES: The distance between the needle tip and the median nerve, the number of nerve contacts and nerve penetrations, as well as the number of successfully elicited de qi sensations were recorded. RESULTS: Complete data could be obtained from 97 cases. The mean distance from the needle tip to the nerve was 1.8 mm (standard deviation 2.2; range 0-11.3). Nerve contacts were recorded in 52 cases, in 14 of which the nerve was penetrated by the needle. De qi was elicited in 85 cases. We found no association between the number of nerve contacts and de qi. The 1-week follow-up showed no complications or neurologic problems. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first investigation demonstrating the relationship between acupuncture needle placement and adjacent neural structures using US technology. The rate of median nerve penetrations by the acupuncture needle at P6 was surprisingly high, but these seemed to carry no risk of neurologic sequelae. De qi at P6 does not depend on median nerve contact, nor does it prevent median nerve penetration.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic and Policlinic for Anaesthesiology and Pain Therapy

UniBE Contributor:

Streitberger, Konrad Markus and Eichenberger, Urs






Mary Ann Liebert




Jeannie Wurz

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:57

Last Modified:

23 Jan 2018 12:17

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Web of Science ID:



https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/24550 (FactScience: 51454)

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