Case Study: Pilot Testing of Local Acupuncture Intervention Protocol for burn scars

Mrs Catherine Tuckey1, Dr Dale Edgar2,3,4, Mrs Susan Kohut5

1The University of Notre Dame Australia, School of Physiotherapy, Perth, Australia, 2Burn Injury Research Node, Institute for Health Research, The University of Notre Dame Australia; , Perth, Australia, 3State Adult Burn Unit, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, Australia, 4Fiona Wood Foundation, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, Australia, 5Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand


Case study: Pilot testing of local acupuncture intervention protocol for burn scars

Following burn injury and prolonged healing, scars may become hypertrophic causing movement restriction, increased scar thickness, colour and pliability, and symptoms such as pain and itch. Acupuncture has emerged as a potentially beneficial treatment for neuroinflammation, which perpetuates the negative features of hypertrophic scar. The aim of this study was to pilot test an evidence-based methodology for applying and measuring the clinical effects of localised acupuncture in a patient with a healed burn injury.

A 71-year-old Caucasian male presented with a hypertrophic scar that was painful and itchy following burn injury and subsequent skin grafting. He received acupuncture and massage treatment local to his scar as per the local (verum) group of the author’s clinical trial under recruitment. Needles were inserted around the circumference of the skin grafted area and adjacent to areas of raised scar tissue within the grafted area and stimulated via bidirectional rotation. Outcome measures included a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) for pain and itch, Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale (POSAS) – self-assessment component and SF36 quality-of-life measure to capture any non-specific acupuncture effects.

Acupuncture applied locally around the scar was associated with short-term relief of symptoms and significantly reduced his subjective outcome measure scores relating to scar thickness, redness, and pliability out to 6-months post-injury. No significant adverse effects were reported following treatment which was well tolerated.


Catherine became interested in treating scars using acupuncture/dry needling in 2014 when completing her Post-graduate Certificate in Western Acupuncture in Auckland, New Zealand. After seeing promising results with a patient using acupuncture for burns scars, then losing touch with him when she moved interstate she decided to continue her study in this area via a Masters of Science through The University of Notre Dame, Australia in Fremantle.
Along with her studies she is the owner and senior practitioner at Physio INQ Manning and has recently returned from maternity leave to both her studies and clinical work.

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