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Impotence Gets 'Needled' in Acupuncture Study

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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.

Michael Heltemes, director of clinical studies at Urology Clinics of North Texas, says there's an outside chance acupuncture could work for impotence, and people would do themselves a "disservice" to rule it out without "evaluating all the information."

"You look at the principle that acupuncture works on, and it works on nerve endings and points ? the process of stimulating an area to send nerve impulses, we artificially do that chemically all the time, so the possibility of that being able to occur is a very realistic one," Heltemes tells WebMD.

Heltemes adds that much interest surrounds finding a magic medication for impotence, "but it's interesting to know that someone is actually working on a therapy that uses the body's [own] resources."

 

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