What is the benefit of autologous blood therapy?

Many complaints can be alleviated with autologous blood therapy

Autologous blood therapy is an integral part of naturopathy. Among other things, it is used to strengthen the immune system, asthma and circulatory disorders. In addition, the administration of autologous blood is said to have a positive effect even in the case of serious illnesses - in addition to other treatment methods. The blood drawn is either treated, enriched or injected without additives.

In naturopathy, numerous diseases are treated with autologous blood therapy. Autologous blood therapy is one of the so-called irritant therapies. These are therapies in which the patient is specifically treated with stimuli such as cold, heat or homeopathic remedies. The stimulus causes the body to activate its self-healing powers. In the case of autologous blood therapy, the stimulus is a small amount of your own blood, which the body identifies as "foreign". The aim is to overcome the stimulus by initiating the healing process.

The naturopathic treatment is not only used by naturopaths but also by many doctors to treat a wide variety of diseases. The autologous blood therapy can be used as the only treatment method or in addition to medication or therapeutic measures. So far, however, there is no scientific proof of the effectiveness of the method.

How does autologous blood therapy work? "One to five milliliters of blood are taken from the patient's arm vein," explains Ulrich Sümper, President of the Federation of German Alternative Practitioners in Warendorf, to the "dpa" news agency. The blood is then usually injected into the gluteal muscle. A bruise then forms (Hematoma) with a blood accumulation, which is absorbed by the body. "The own blood is regarded by the body as 'foreign' and triggers an immune reaction," reports Sümper. "This stimulates the body's own defenses." In most cases, stimulus therapy comprises a total of up to twelve sessions, which take place twice a week.

There are two different methods of execution in autologous blood therapy. Either blood is taken from the arm vein and then injected into the patient - treated or untreated - or a small drop of capillary blood is taken from the fingertip, which is then prepared for oral intake in accordance with homeopathic regulations.

The autologous blood can be left untreated, processed with a homeopathic remedy or potentiated homeopathically. In addition to the small autologous blood therapy, there are numerous other variants. In the so-called large autologous blood therapy, in which larger amounts of blood are drawn, the own blood is mixed with ozone or oxygen and can be irradiated with UV light.

Autologous blood therapy is usually not covered by the health insurance company. In Germany autologous blood therapy is not one of the regular services provided by statutory health insurance companies. However, some private and statutory insurers have such offers. For a session there are about 15 euros.

Autologous blood therapy is often billed as a so-called iGeL service (individual health service). In this context, Silke Thomas from the "Hedgehog Monitor", an evaluation service for these individual health services, which is intended to help patients make decisions, examined autologous blood therapy with regard to its effectiveness in tendon irritation (tendinopathy). She came to the conclusion that the procedure is "tend to be negative" because of the lack of proof of effectiveness and at the same time possible damage potential.

"Patients should confront their treating physician with our assessment and critically examine it," Thomas told the news agency. Autologous blood therapy for coagulation disorders, phlebitis or taking the anticoagulant Marcumar is contraindicated discuss with the patient.

"It is important that the treatment is carried out under normal hygiene standards and that the correct injection technology is mastered - especially if you inject intramuscularly," reports Rainer Stange from the Department of Naturopathy at the Immanuel Hospital in Berlin to the news agency. An injection means a puncture and therefore one Injury to the body: Infection may occur at the injection site, causing 54 out of 352 autologous blood therapy patients to become infected with hepatitis due to poor hygiene, as reported by the journal "Arzneimittel-Telegram".

Effectiveness of autologous blood therapy has not been proven. Although autologous blood therapy has so far failed to provide scientific evidence of its effectiveness, a survey has shown that around 75,000 doctors across Germany rely on the treatment method. "There is certainly a suggestive effect," Professor Detmar Jobst from the University Hospital Bonn told the news agency. "But every medical measure has a placebo effect." Although many patients can see an improvement in their symptoms, the medical processes behind this are unknown. "There are ailments in which you have to offer something to the patient," says Jobst.

Alternative practitioners and doctors who use autologous blood therapy are aware of the lack of proof of effectiveness and know the limits of the method. "Autologous blood therapy is not the only form of treatment for severe acute or life-threatening illnesses," informs the Federation of German Alternative Practitioners.

So far, only a few smaller studies have dealt with the therapeutic process. For a meaningful result, extensive investigations must be carried out, which include, for example, animal test series and comparative tests with many test subjects. Stange sees the low economic interest as the reason for the lack of research activities in the field of autologous blood therapy. While pharmaceutical manufacturers have a great interest in research for medicines, this is lacking in the therapeutic process. He has said that he has "done this treatment hundreds of times and has never seen a serious adverse reaction." However, one thing Stange observed: "Occasionally there is a short-term rise in temperature and also flu-like feelings over two to three days." (Ag)

Image: Rainer Sturm / pixelio.de

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