Acupuncture is a therapy based on sensory stimulation of the human body by means of metal needles. The exact underlying mechanisms of acupuncture have not been clarified so far. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has become an important tool in acupuncture research. Standard acupuncture needles, which are made of ferromagnetic steel, however, are problematic in acupuncture-fMRI studies for several reasons, such as attraction by the scanner's magnetic field, significant image distortions and signal-dropouts, when positioned close to the head or even heating due to absorption of radio frequency (RF). The aim of this study was to compare two novel types of acupuncture needles with a standard needle for their effect on MRI image quality. The standard needle severely reduced image quality, when located inside the RF coil. The nonferromagnetic metal needle may pose a risk due to RF heating, while the plastic needle has a significantly larger diameter. In conclusion, our recommendations are: (1) standard needles should not be used in MRI; (2) Nonferromagnetic metal needles seem to be the best choice for acupoints outside of the transmitter coil; and (3) only plastic needles are suited for points inside the coil. Laser acupuncture may be a safe alternative, too. Copyright 2011 Florian Beissner et al.
Beissner, F., Nöth, U., & Schockert, T. (2011). The problem of metal needles in acupuncture-fMRI studies. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/808203