The availability and practicability of acupuncture are also important factors to consider. The advantages of acupuncture are that it is simple, convenient and has few contraindications. Although the success rate of acupuncture therapy in treating kidney stones, for example, is confirmed by comparative studies with other therapies (7), it is by no means as high as that of surgical intervention. However, acupuncture treatment of kidney stones is still worth recommending because of its simplicity, which makes it more acceptable to patients.
There are also instances where acupuncture is not more practicable than conventional therapy. For example, the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment of acute bacillary dysentery has been shown to be comparable with that of furazolidone (8-10), but this is of rather academic significance because oral administration of furazolidone or other antidysenteric drugs is more convenient.
The conditions of the health service in a given country or area should also be considered in evaluating acupuncture practice. In developing countries, where medical personnel and medicines are still lacking, the need for acupuncture may be considerable and urgent; proper use of this simple and economic therapy could benefit a large number of patients. On the other hand, in developed countries, where the health system is well established, with sophisticated technology, adequate personnel and a well-equipped infrastructure, acupuncture might be considered to be of great value in only a limited number of conditions. It could still serve as a valuable alternative treatment for many diseases or conditions for which modern conventional treatments are unsuccessful. It is also valuable in situations where the patient is frightened of the potential risks or adverse effects of modern conventional treatments. In fact, in some developed countries, the diseases for which patients seek help from acupuncturists tend to be beyond the scope of orthodox medicine.