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Comments on the AANP
Position on Electrodiagnosis

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians position statement on electrodiagnosis describes it as "experimental" and an appropriate subject for scientific research. This position is nonsense. Electrodiagnosis (also called electrodermal screening and electroacupuncture of Voll) is based on the notion that health problems throughout the body can be diagnosed by detecting "imbalances" in the flow of "electromagnetic energy" through "acupuncture meridians." The treatment selected depends on the scope of the practitioner's practice and may include acupuncture, dietary change, and/or vitamin supplements, as well as homeopathic products.

The devices are fancy galvanometers that measure electrical resistance of the patient's skin when touched by a probe. Each device contains a low-voltage source. One wire from the device goes to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected to a probe, which the operator touches to "acupuncture points" on the patient's foot or other hand. This completes a circuit, and the device registers the flow of current. The information is then relayed to a gauge or computer screen that provides a numerical readout. The size of the number depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient's skin.

The AANP statement also mentions using the equipment to test or prepare remedies. This is commonly done by placing test substances in a glass vial on a metal test plate where they are allegedly exposed to the low-voltage electric current. This, too, is nonsensical because glass is an insulator that blocks any current from reaching the substance in the vial.

These devices cannot be legally marketed as diagnostic or treatment devices. To get around the law, some manufacturers label them as biofeedback devices or claim they are experimental, even though the way they are used has nothing to do with either biofeedback or experimentation. Regulatory agencies have warned a few manufactures to stop making unapproved claims and have seized a few devices, but they have not made a systematic effort to drive them from the marketplace.

It should be obvious that electrodiagnostic test results have nothing to do with the patient's state of health. Their embrace by AANP is further evidence of naturopathic delusion.

ELECTRODIAGNOSIS IN NATUROPATHIC PRACTICE

WHEREAS:

  1. Naturopathic physicians are primary care practitioners who specialize in the use of natural therapeutic methods.
  2. Naturopathic physicians use conventional and traditional methods of diagnosis and treatment. Some of the traditional methods used have been vigorously criticized for being unscientific. The naturopathic colleges and the profession have done much work developing and collecting the empirical, scientific and verifiable data supporting our practices.
  3. Electrodiagnosis uses equipment classified as experimental by the US Food and Drug Administration.
  4. This equipment measures the amount of current, by voltage or amperage between a ground that the patient holds and a testing probe at a Electrodiagnosis point (usually an acupuncture point).
  5. There are three levels of electro-diagnosis:
    a. Meridian testing: Readings are interpreted in indicate strength of specific meridians, organ strength or physiologic function.
    b. Remedy testing: Variations in readings are interpreted when remedies are given to the patient either orally, to hold or put on a "testing plate" wired to the electrodiagnostic equipment. Interpretations may include sensitivities, nutritional enhancement, or improved function.
    c. Energy medicines: Electrodiagnostic equipment interprets information and manufactures an energy medicine which is given to the patient to take orally.

THEREFORE IT IS THE POSITION OF THE AANP THAT:

  1. It is appropriate that the naturopathic profession pursue scientific research regarding the reproducibility and reliability of each of the three uses of this methods.
  2. That a coordinated project by either the colleges or a Naturopathic specialty society develop appropriate research models that meet the criteria of ethical and humane research.
  3. That a policy be developed regarding proper patient and third party billing that addresses appropriate procedure and diagnosis codes.
  4. That an informed consent form be developed describing the experimental nature of electrodiagnosis for each of the three levels of electrodiagnosis.
  5. That AANP members provide the appropriate informed consent forms to be read and signed by their patients or guardians who receive electrodiagnosis until such time as electrodiagnosis is no longer experimental.

-- Principle Author: Michael Cronin, ND
     Adopted at the 1992 Annual Convention
 
Further Information on "Electrodiagnostic Devices"
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This article was posted on December 30, 2001.