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Impotence Gets 'Needled' in Acupuncture Study

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The final results? Eight of the participants claimed they were "cured." "About two-thirds of our patients reported good results of our acupuncture therapy; they defined themselves as cured; they didn't demand any additional therapy," Engelhardt says.

"About one-third of the patients told us that they had some improvements of their quality of life, that their erections were a little bit better than at the start of the treatment," Engelhardt says. "But it was not sufficient enough, so they wanted some additional therapy, and we treated them with Viagra."

The trial is ongoing, and some of the patients just finished treatment, "so how long does it help or how long does it work, in the case of successful treatment, I cannot say," Engelhardt tells WebMD.

But, Engelhardt says, the importance of the study is not just in a successful outcome, but also in a successful process. "You see these patients twice a week; for 10 weeks, [there's] strong interactive communication with the patient," Engelhardt adds. "I think this is also a point that you communicate with the patient, you talk to them. Patients with [impotence from a psychological source] want to talk, but I don't think it's the psychotherapy ? it's all together. You make real treatment with acupuncture, and you have good follow-up and talk to your patient."

James Dillard, MD, tells WebMD, "We do know that acupuncture can affect mood, we know that acupuncture can affect a person's sense of well being, so that's not surprising in a way. [But], I'd want to see a bigger study." Dillard is a member of the medical staff at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York and medical director for Oxford Health Plan's Alternative Medicine program. He also is an acupuncturist.

Dillard says he doubts the acupuncture could bring about a "physical" change. It occurs by a different process, he tells WebMD.

"I think it's more likely that it's working on a [psychological and emotional] level. It's making the person feel better, it's improving their mood, making them feel a little sharper, making them feel a little more relaxed, Kaboom, [it] gets better," Dillard says.

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