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Miss. Medical Board Bars Ear Stapling

April 20, 2006 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A state medical board has ordered 14 weight-loss businesses that perform a procedure called ear stapling to close their doors, alleging they are operating illegally.

Mal Morgan, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure, said the action was taken after a board investigation into complaints from people suffering from serious ear infections and doctors treating more patients with infections and having to remove the staples.

Because the businesses targeted receive compensation for offering treatment for obesity, Morgan said, ``That is practicing medicine. They are, in fact, practicing medicine without a license.″

Ear stapling is a new, popular weight-loss procedure that draws from ancient acupuncture and is cropping up throughout Mississippi, a state with one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

``We understand there are places (in Mississippi) serving 200 people a day,″ Morgan said.

In Mississippi, only doctors licensed in acupuncture are allowed to perform acupuncture procedures. Other states allow people with certification besides medical doctors to practice acupuncture.

``This is in effect acupuncture,″ Morgan said of ear stapling.

Staple Trim LLC’s ear-stapling location in Mendenhall was served with the board’s notice on Monday. As a precaution, Staple Trim closed its Byram office Monday, said Sara Ward, who works in supplies at Staple Trim.

Ward said the Byram location did not receive a letter and management _ not the licensing board _ closed that location.

``We’ve not been told exactly what the stipulations are,″ Ward said.

She said the business would remain closed until they could do research about their right to operate.

Dr. Aena Payne, a board-certified acupuncturist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said acupuncture on the ear can help with weight loss, but she does not support ear stapling because of the threat of infection and the belief the staple alone will yield weight-loss results.

Payne said that even if the businesses use special equipment to pinpoint the areas where the staple should be inserted, there is still room for error because there are 300 different points in the ear.

``One spot cannot do everything,″ she said.

Payne said people who use acupuncture correctly for weight loss are treated regularly and for a long time, supplementing their treatment with proper diet and exercise. That option is expensive and not very popular.

``I know people are frustrated with losing weight, but there is no easy, fast way,″ Payne said.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com