SAAAPP: Veteran Ear Acupuncture Pilot Project

Chillicothe VA Medical Center (U.S. Fed)
Overall Status
Completed ID

Study Details

Study Description

Brief Summary

Veterans who have responded well to Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA), a form of auricular acupuncture, in routine clinical practice will be invited to receive education to insert the needles themselves at home. A 3D-printed wearable prosthetic will also be explored as a means to facilitate needle placement.

Primary end-points will include whether adverse events occur over a six-month period and whether the aforementioned prosthesis significantly facilitates needle placement in terms of subjective ease of administration.

Condition or Disease Intervention/Treatment Phase
  • Procedure: Self-administration of auricular acupuncture without prosthesis
  • Procedure: Self-administration of auricular acupuncture with prosthesis

Detailed Description

30 veterans who have repeatedly had good responses to BFA will be invited to participate. The PI and his collaborators will give standardized education (BFA training) to the veterans in a group session to teach them how to self-administer the BFA. The BFA training will be identical to that used by the VA for providers except that the training will focus on self-administration. The participants will be given needles in a manner similar to a prescription medication (i.e. controlled by the provider). They will self-administer BFA every two weeks for a total of 6 months and record their response in a standardized BFA template. Providers will call participants at intervals of two to four weeks to retrieve this data and assess for any adverse events other than minor bleeding, scratches and dizziness.

A plastic, custom-molded prosthesis will be developed during the first several months using 3D-scanning and 3D-printing. This prosthesis will be wearable over the ear and will have holes directly over the relevant acupuncture points to facilitate insertion. At the 3-month mark, participants will be given these. If this turns out to not be feasible with the available resources, work on this will cease for the remainder of the project. At the end of the study, participants will be asked whether the prosthesis made a significant difference in the ease of administration and open-ended comments regarding their experience will also be solicited.

Study Design

Study Type:
Actual Enrollment :
12 participants
Intervention Model:
Single Group Assignment
Intervention Model Description:
This is a pilot project to assess safety of self-administration of auricular acupuncture over a six-month period and how well a custom prosthesis facilitates needle placement.This is a pilot project to assess safety of self-administration of auricular acupuncture over a six-month period and how well a custom prosthesis facilitates needle placement.
None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose:
Official Title:
Self-Administration of Auricular Acupuncture Pilot Project
Actual Study Start Date :
Feb 27, 2020
Actual Primary Completion Date :
Sep 8, 2020
Actual Study Completion Date :
Jul 1, 2021

Arms and Interventions

Arm Intervention/Treatment
Experimental: Self-administration of Auricular Acupuncture Group

There is only one arm in this pilot project, whose purpose is to determine safety of self-administration of Battlefield Acupuncture over a six month period and how well a prosthesis facilitates needle insertion. Five ASP (Aiguille D'acupuncture semi-permanente) needles will be self-inserted into each participant's ear every two weeks according to the standardized acupuncture points in Battlefield Acupuncture.

Procedure: Self-administration of auricular acupuncture without prosthesis
Participants will insert semi-permanent acupuncture needles in their ears without the guidance of a prosthesis

Procedure: Self-administration of auricular acupuncture with prosthesis
The same participants who previous self-administered a standardized auricular acupuncture will be given custom-molded prostheses midway through the study to assess how much the prostheses facilitate insertion.

Outcome Measures

Primary Outcome Measures

  1. Incidence of Treatment-Emergent Adverse Events (Self-Administered Auricular Acupuncture) [Six months]

    The total number of self-reported adverse events other than minor self-limited bleeding (less than 1 mL per episode of acupuncture), dizziness and mild nausea will be recorded for the participants. The absolute number and percentage of participants experiencing adverse events greater than the aforementioned will be reported.

  2. Incidence of Perceived Improved Ease of Self-administration of Auricular Acupuncture with 3D-printed Ear Prostheses [3 months]

    What percentage of patients affirm that the ear prostheses provided during the study make the self-administration of auricular acupuncture easier to perform? This is a dichotomous "yes/no" question.

Secondary Outcome Measures

  1. Comparative Satisfaction with Pain Control of Self-Administered Auricular Acupuncture versus Previous Episodes of Provider Administered Auricular Acupuncture [6 months]

    Previous provider-administered post-needling auricular acupuncture pain scores as measured by the Numeric Rating Scale will be averaged for each participant according to the availability of such data. All participants will be expected to have several such data points in the electronic medical record. These scores will be averaged for each patient. This individual average will be compared to the average of post-needling NRS scores reported from the self-administration of auricular acupuncture for the same patient. The percentage of difference in the NRS score between provider-administered and self-administered acupuncture will be reported to assess for possible non-inferiority of self-administered auricular acupuncture.

Eligibility Criteria


Ages Eligible for Study:
18 Years to 120 Years
Sexes Eligible for Study:
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:
Inclusion Criteria:
  • Clinical diagnosis of chronic pain from any etiology

  • Participant is physically and cognitively able to self-administer auricular acupuncture. This will be determined by the investigator during the educational sessions.

  • Participants taking anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medications will be allowed to participate if they acknowledge an increased risk of bleeding

Exclusion Criteria:
  • Condition causing ongoing immunocompromised state (e.g. overt AIDS, chemotherapy, anti-rejection medications)

  • Acquired or congenital defects in the tympanic membrane

  • Pregnancy

  • Severe cognitive impairment

  • Physical disability precluding self-administration of auricular acupuncture

  • History of severe vasovagal reaction to acupuncture needling

  • History of endocarditis

  • History of artificial heart valve

  • History of implanted device to support cardiac function

  • Participation will be terminated for participants who use the acupuncture needles in any way other than instructed

Exclusion criteria include those who do not wish to participate and those who have significant contraindications to AA (auricular acupuncture) or indwelling acupuncture. These include: being immunocompromised, congenital or acquired defects in the tympanic membrane, pregnancy, severe cognitive impairment, inability to perform BFA on themselves. Medical anti-coagulation is not an automatic exclusion as many patients on these medications will not have any issues with bleeding with BFA. Those who have history of severe vasovagal/syncopal or other adverse response to skin puncture will also be excluded. Those with artificial heart valves or those with a history of heart valve infection are excluded because of risk of endocarditis. Pregnant patients will be excluded from this study to eliminate the possibility of harm to pregnant patients and developing children. Medical conditions that would exclude someone from using BFA include: 1) those with replacement heart valves; 2) those with history of heart valve infection; 3) those who are pregnant; 4) those who have a pacemaker, defibrillator, or other similar electronic device; 5) those who are afraid of needles, 6) those who are scheduled for an MRI; 7) those with non-medication induced bleeding disorders.

Participants will be removed from the study if it is discovered they are using the needles in a manner that is inconsistent with the protocol.

Contacts and Locations


Site City State Country Postal Code
1 Chillicothe VA Medical Center Chillicothe Ohio United States 45601

Sponsors and Collaborators

  • Chillicothe VA Medical Center


  • Principal Investigator: Brian L James, MD, Chillicothe VA Medical Center

Study Documents (Full-Text)

More Information


Responsible Party:
Chillicothe VA Medical Center Identifier:
Other Study ID Numbers:
  • ChilliVASAAAUC2019-0194
First Posted:
Dec 23, 2019
Last Update Posted:
Nov 1, 2021
Last Verified:
Dec 1, 2020
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD:
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product:
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product:
Keywords provided by Chillicothe VA Medical Center
Additional relevant MeSH terms:

Study Results

No Results Posted as of Nov 1, 2021