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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 7, Issue 2, Pages 259-264
Original Article

The Biological Safety of Stainless Steel Needles Used in Warm-Needling

1Research Group of Pain and Neuroscience, WHO Collaborating Center, East-West Medical Research Institute, Republic of Korea
2Department of Applied Korean Medicine, Graduate School, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
3Department of Basic Eastern Medical Science, Graduate School, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
4Department of Dental Laboratory Science, Pusan Catholic University, Pusan, Republic of Korea
5Department of Biomedical Engineering, In Je University, Gim-Hae, Republic of Korea
6Department of Meridian and Acupuncture, Graduate School of Basic Eastern Medical Science, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Received 8 August 2008; Accepted 11 September 2008

Copyright © 2010 Sabina Lim et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Warm-needling (also called thermo-acupuncture) is a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion. Due to the intense heat involved, there have been concerns over the biological safety of the acuneedles used in the treatment. This paper reports two phases of a safety test. For a preliminary test, we compared the temperature change patterns of stainless steel (SS304) needles and traditional gold alloy needles, which have been increasingly replaced by the former. To verify the effects of the presence of coating materials, the main test involved three different kinds of SS304: silicone-coated, salicylic acid-coated and non-coated needles. Each group of needles was tested for pH level, heavy metals and UV absorbance spectrum along with biological tests on the cytotoxicity and hemolysis of the needle. All the tests on the extractants from the needles were negative. In the biological tests, each test result showed a significant difference from the positive control samples, while no significant difference was observed compared with the negative control samples. In the hemolysis tests, all samples satisfied the Korean Government Standards. All the results suggest that SS304 needles are biologically safe to be used in warm-needling, though they can be improved to perform as well as the gold alloy needles in terms of temperature fluctuations.