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Electrodiagnostic Devices

 

Some physicians, dentists, naturopaths, and chiropractors use "electrodiagnostic" devices to help select the treatment they prescribe, which usually includes homeopathic products. These practitioners claim they can determine the cause of any disease by detecting the "energy imbalance" causing the problem. Some also claim that the devices can detect whether someone is allergic or sensitive to foods, deficient in vitamins, or has defective teeth. Some even claim they can tell whether a disease, such as cancer or AIDS, is not present. One Mexican clinic claims that such a device can be used to cure cancer. The diagnostic procedure is most commonly commonly referred to as Electroacupuncture according to Voll (EAV) or electrodermal screening (EDS), but some practitioners call it bioelectric functions diagnosis (BFD), bio resonance therapy (BRT), or bio-energy regulatory technique (BER).

The first EAV device was developed by Reinhold Voll, a West German physician who had been engaged in acupuncture practice in the 1950s. In 1958, he combined Chinese acupuncture theory with galvanic skin differentials to produce his EAV system. About ten years later, one of his students (another German physician named Helmut Schimmel) simplified the diagnostic system from approximately 850 points to 60 points, made small modifications to the equipment, and went on to help create the first model of the Vegatest. Subsequent variants include the Accupath 1000, Biotron, Computron, Dermatron, DiagnoMètre, Eclosion, Elast, Interro, LISTEN System, MORA, Omega AcuBase, OmegaVision, Prophyle, and Punctos III.

 

 Vegatest II

 Dermatron

Proponents, claim these devices measure disturbances in the body's flow of "electro-magnetic energy" along "acupuncture meridians." [1] Actually, these devices are little more than fancy galvanometers that measure electrical resistance of the patient's skin when touched by a probe. The device emits a tiny direct electric current (0.87 volt for the Vegatest) that flows through a wire from the device to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected from the device to a probe, which the operator touches to "acupuncture points" on the patient's other hand or a foot. This completes a low-voltage 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 on a scale of 0  to 100. According to Voll's theory: readings from 45 to 55 are normal ("balanced"); readings above 55 indicate inflammation of the organ "associated" with the "meridian" being tested; and readings below 45 suggest "organ stagnation and degeneration." The size of the number actually depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient's skin.

Recent versions, such as the Interro pictured below, make sounds and provide the readout on a computer screen. 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 remedies.

 

 

Interro device. One probe is held in the patient's hand. As the other probe is touched to the patient's other hand or foot, a bar rises on the right side of the computer screen (see arrow), accompanied by a noise. The reading supposedly determines the status of various organs of the body. In 1986, I underwent testing with this device at a clinic in Nevada. I discovered that the movement of the bar and the loudness of the noise were determined only by how hard the probe was pressed to my skin [2]. After the alleged problems are "diagnosed," glass ampules containing homeopathic solutions may be placed in the metal honeycomb in the foreground and the tests are repeated to determine whether they are suitable for correcting the alleged "imbalances."

The Computron, used with Accupro software, is claimed to permit "a comprehensive overview of the functional status of the various organs and tissues. A distributor's web site states:

"A complete cardiovascular examination, for example could involve testing over 30 such heart points, testing for causative factors such as viral, bacterial or chemical toxins. Then, suggested test substances will appear on the screen (i.e., nosodes, chemicals, homeopathic remedies, allergens, herbs, vitamins & minerals etc.) which can then be tested to observe which ones would allow the body to return to a state of energetic harmony."

 
Digital Health, of Draper, Utah, marketed the Omega AcuBase Platinum, the rights to which were purchased in 1998 by BioMeridian International. During 1997, Digital Health's Web site claimed that the device provided a basis for prescribing over 9,000 items, including homeopathic remedies, herbs, medications, color therapy, flower remedies, and proprietary products.

 

The Australian College of Allergy has concluded that "Vega testing is a technique of diagnosis without scientific basis." [3] In 1997, a biomedical engineer found that placing ampules in the honeycomb of a Vegatest I device did not affect the device's readings. This is not surprising, because glass is not an electrical conductor.

The Current Marketplace

EAV devices are marketed by several companies, most of which also sponsor educational seminars. Most make blatant medical claims, but a few pretend that the device is used for "stress testing."

 
The Occidental Institute Research Foundation (O.I.R.F.), a Canadian corporation, markets several devices and sponsors seminars on"German biological medicine." O.I.R.F. states that it has 600 affiliated practitioners. Its MORA III device, pictured here, is described as useful for treating allergies, asthma, bronchitis, gastritis, depression, health and circulatory illness, food intolerance, pancreatitis, rheutmatic disorders, and "all types of pain conditions."

Since 1994, BioMeridian (formerly called Biosource), of Ogden, Utah, which markets the LISTEN System, has sponsored an annual International Congress of Electro-Dermal Screening Healthcare Practitioners. Its web site provides a comprehensive look at how "electrodiagnostic devices" are promoted. Its information on dental testing includes case histories of five patients with who had teeth or fillings removed after testing with the device showed "imbalances" allegedly related to elbow pain, tachycardia (abnormally fast heartbeat), sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, fatigue, weight loss, ankle pain, and sleeplessness. The LISTEN device is claimed to restore "balance" by providing corrective electrical signals. A 1997 patent application states:

The basic tenet behind the LISTEN system is that the points on the body normally referred to as "acupuncture points" have an optimal electrical resistance in healthy subjects which changes during illness. Each acupuncture point is associated with a specific meridian, or line of electrical conductance, which in turn is associated with a particular organ or system of the body. . . .

By determining the electrical resistance at different points on a patient, it is possible to determine which organs are affected by a disease. In addition, a patient can be treated by providing a radiofrequency electrical signal which restores electrical conductance at specific points to normal levels. [4]

Another company sponsoring seminars is the Veradyne Corporation, of Alpine, California, which manufactures an EDS device called the Avatar. During 1998, its Web site listed more than 50 practitioners said to use the device.

The German-based Grieshaber Group markets Vega equipment and other "energetic balance devices" through subsidiaries in several countries. It also runs seminars and, since 1994, has operated a "functional medicine" clinic called the Grieshaber Health Institute. The company states that "an examiner's bad state of health or a hyper activity of the left side of the brain" can lead to erroneous readings. Properly used, however, its newest equipment can provide answers that "may sound like science fiction" but are "the results of decades of experimental and developmental work." [5]

ELAST Technologies, of Las Vegas, Nevada, markets The ELAST Device developed by company founder Robert D. Milne, M.D., who operates the Milne Medical Center in Las Vegas. The company claims that the body "loses energy" when exposed to an substance to which it is sensitive and and that the company's Electronic-Allergo Sensitivity Test can detect and amplify "the electrical flow of the body" when thus exposed. (An investment advisor at Xcel Associates told me that exposure is done by placing the test substance near the face, which supposedly generates a current detectable at the wrist.) ELAST's chiropractic marketing division is headed by Terry Rondberg, D.C., president of the World Chiropractic Alliance, who is also on the company's board of directors. Rondberg states that the device can also be tailored to measure chiropractic outcome and "will provide doctors of chiropractic with the means to measure the damage of vertebral subluxations - small misalignments of the vertebrae which interfere with the normal nerve flow - and the normalizing effect of chiropractic adjustments." [6]

The PanAmerican Institute of BioenErgetic Medicine, located in the West Indies, offers courses and markets the Biotron device. Its Web site states:

Bioenergetic medicine is a soft technology that recognizes that the human is a sentient being and responds to energies beyond laboratory settings and overt scientific analysis. A Bioenergetic practitioner is one that is highly perceptive, emotionally balanced, a student of not only of medicine, but also metaphysical teachings, and utilizes not only soft technology but nurses both mind and body of the patient. Bioenergetic medicine is thus able to steer many complaints to a successful resolution utilizing a vareity of soft and righteous clinical techniques.

A three-day course in "Electro Dermal Resistance Analysis" is available for $1,500 at the Capital University of Integrative Medicine, a nonaccredited school in Washington, D.C. The course covers "assessment of health and the treatment of imbalances of the immune system through the resistance characteristics of specific acupuncture meridians on the body" and how to "locate the systemic roots of immune system weakness and to provide stimulation to strengthen the weakness."

The "Equipment for Sale" page of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Web site occasionally lists used EAV devices. A 1998 ad suggests that practitioners who use these devices are well aware that the FDA disapproves of their use:

VegaTest II complete with carrying case, extra hand electrode, instruction manual (Short Manual of Vega Test), test kits and 114 food vials. $2,000 for the whole kit and kaboodle. Remember, Vega units are no longer available in the United States. Save yourself the expense and hassle of importing a Vega unit (and avoid the possibility of having the unit confiscated at the border).

Manufacturers and users often characterize EDS devices as "biofeedback" or "stress testing" devices. Biosource, for example, asserts that the devices "provide the physician with a method for identifying imbalances within the electromagnetic circulatory system of the body and aid in the selection of appropriate medicines and treatments necessary for a return to good health." Some practitioners also claim to use their device as aid to diagnosis rather than the sole basis for diagnosis. I believe these statements are double-talk and would not stand up in court.

HoloConcept, of Quebec, Canada, states that its DiagnoMètre is "an effective investigational tool with wide-ranging applications in health care. For example: "Acupressure, Acupuncture, Allopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flowers Remedies, Biochemic Tissue Salts, Bioenergetics, Electroacupuncture, Gemmotherapy, Herbology, Homeopathy, Isopathy, Kinesiology, Lithotherapy, Naturopathy, Nutritional Therapy, Oligotherapy, Organotherapy, Phytotherapy, Vitaminotherapy, etc." A recent brochure promises that the device can "discover energy disturbances in the human body at a very early stage, even before they appear at the physical level." [7] But it cautions:

The use of the DiagnoMètre is limited to investigational purposes by health professionals. The user may not prescribe any medication, recommend any treatment, modify or stop a treatment, give any medical advice or diagnosis based solely on indications obtained from the DiagnoMètre, because this instrument is not designed for such purposes. The only purpose of the DiagnoMètre is to measure the variation of skin's electrical resistance of acupuncture points under different conditions.

Phazx Systems of Colorado Springs, Colorado, claims that its Body Scan 2010 "taps into the body´s own data communication pathways. By monitoring the body´s response to electrical impulse, it determines energy demands and assists the practitioner in establishing a treatment protocol to bring the body back into balance." The company's Web site lists 69 practitioners in the United States and 4 in other countries. The company also markets the VLD100 for "testing the body's stress response against substances such as vitamins and minerals." Extensive instruction and "certification in bioenergetic health and wellness" are available through the International Academy of Bioenergetic Practitioners, and homeopathic remedies are available through Genex Systems, both of which appear to be subsidiaries of Phazx Systems. The IABP Web site states:

Many practitioners find that their scope of practice expands and becomes more effective using bioenergetics. Because these services are in high demand, restore health, and are paid for out of pocket, you can compete more easily in the marketplace and increase your cash flow. . . .

Bioenergetic services are an excellent adjunct to the existing traditional health practices of MDs, dentists, or nurses. If you have a practice now and are considering increasing your services, bioenergetics prepares your practice to survive the changes in the health market place. You will be able to create a new profit center, because patients will be willingly paying for the services, as well as purchasing vitamins and supplements directly from you. Often the biofeedback testing can be billed and reimbursed through insurance companies or health plans, using biofeedback CPT codes. Building a practice is easy because patient satisfaction is extremely high, and that continues to build referrals.

Bioenergetics can be the bridge between conventional and complementary medicine because it interrelates many of the current health fields (and sciences) and also incorporates training in Chinese medicine, biofeedback, holistic and natural health, herbs, homeopathy, homotoxicology and a nutritional approach toward wellness. Bioenergetics can be the avenue for an easy integration of these processes into a more conventional medical practice.

By incorporating bioenergetics in your practice, you will be able to implement all aspects of these principles, based on a patient's individual needs. Now you can treat a patient individually, rather than as part of a group sharing the same diagnosis or common symptoms. With your new knowledge you will understand the unique processes that led to your patient's illness, and will be able to see the bigger picture of what is necessary to help eliminate the causes of illness. . . .

CPT codes are supposed to reflect what actually takes place. EAV testing is not biofeedback treatment. I believe that the use of a biofeedback CPT code for EAV testing would constitute fraud.

Although the IABP Web site claims that EAV can figure out what is wrong with patients, it also states that they "have not been cleared for sale as diagnostic devices, and their use cannot be construed or considered a medical procedure. These devices cannot diagnose specific conditions within the body or treat any diseases." I assume this disclaimer is an attempt to ward off federal regulatory action for marketing an unapproved diagnostic device.

The International EAV Association Web site provides additional information on EAV theories and "standards."

Legal Status

The FDA classifies "devices that use resistance measurements to diagnose and treat various diseases" as Class III devices, which require FDA approval prior to marketing. In 1986, an FDA official informed me that the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health had determined that the Dermatron and Accupath 1000 were diagnostic devices that posed a "significant risk." [8] No such device can be legally marketed in the United States for diagnostic or treatment purposes. The FDA has warned or prosecuted a few marketers and banned the importation of such devices into the United States. State regulatory agencies have also taken a few actions. However, no systematic effort has been made to drive them from the marketplace.

As a result, bogus "electrodiagnostic" devices are being used by many chiropractors, acupuncturists, dentists, "holistic" physicians, veterinarians, and self-styled "nutritionists." The most common use is for prescribing homeopathic remedies. They are also used to determine "allergies," detect "nutrient deficiencies," and detect alleged problems in teeth that contain mercury-amalgam ("silver") fillings. I know of two patients who had healthy teeth extracted after being misdiagnosed with an electrodiagnostic device. I also know about an Australian woman whose cost per visit has been AU$120 (about US$75) for the test plus another AU$200 (about US$125) for products. In yet another case, a man who consulted a physician about rectal bleeding and abdominal cramps was examined only with a Dermatron and told that his colon was fine. Unfortunately, the man had colon cancer -- which was not diagnosed until at least seven months later when he consulted another doctor.

The strangest report I have received came from a parent who, after reading this article, telephoned to described how his five-year-old daughter had been tested by an unlicensed practitioner. When the child became restless, the test was continued by probing the parent's hand while the parent held the child. The parent also noted that the practitioner appeared to manipulate the results (seeking a "50" reading on the device) by moistening or drying the child's finger while testing to select the appropriate remedy. Two others I know about who had advanced cancers were erroneously told they were cancer-free. One of them was sold 33 products to get rid of "parasites" and other nonexistent problems. A victim who tried to get a refund was told that the products had been electrically specifically modified for her and could not be used for anyone else.

Enforcement Actions

Government agencies in at least four countries have taken enforcement actions against EAV devices:

The Bottom Line

The devices described in this article are used to diagnose nonexistent health problems, select inappropriate treatment, and defraud insurance companies. I believe that EAV devices should be confiscated and that practitioners who use them should be delicensed because they are either delusional, dishonest, or both. If you encounter any such device, please report it to the practitioner's state licensing board, the state attorney general, the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, the National Fraud Information Center, and any insurance company to which the practitioner submits claims that involve use of the device. For the addresses of these agencies, click here. Please send copies of your complaints to me at P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105.

If you have been victimized by a practitioner using one
of these devices, please telephone me at (610) 437-1795.

References

  1. American Association of Acupuncture and Bio-Energetic Medicine. Basic explanation of the electrodermal screening test and the concepts of bio-energetic medicine. AAABEM Web site, 1998
  2. Barrett S. My visit to the Nevada Clinic. Nutrition Forum 4:6-8, 1987.
  3. Katalaris CH and others. Vega testing in the diagnosis of allergic conditions. Medical Journal of Australia 155:113-114, 1991.
  4. Brewitt B. Methods for treating disorders by administyering radio frequency signals corresponding to growth factors. U.S. Patent Number 5,626,617, May 13, 1997. Patent Number 5,629,286 contains additional information. To access the full text of these documents, a special plug-in must be used to download them as images (click "Images" at the top or bottom of the page), a process that could take up to an hour.
  5. VEGA NEWS 4, magazine of the VEGA Greishaber KG, Schlitach, Germany, 1998.
  6. ELAST technologies establishes chiropractic division; Terry A. Rondberg, DC, president of World Chiropractic Alliance to head new division and to serve on board of directors. New release, ELAST Technologies, Aug 17, 2000.
  7. DiagnoMètre: An essential and effective invetigational tool with wide-renaging applications in health care. Quebec: Holoconcept, undated (distributed in 1999).
  8. Rollings JN. Letter to Stephen Barrett, M.D., November 28, 1986.
  9. Britain RG. Regulatory letter to John Fitzgerald, Director, Pulse Life, St. Maries, Idaho, March 2, 1985.
  10. Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee: Professional misconduct findings against Dr. D W Steeper. New Zealand Medical Journal 103:194-195, 1990.
  11. Denial of use of Dermatron and interference with desired medical treatment. FDA Consumer 28(8):36, 1994.
  12. United States v. Century Clinic, Inc., et al. (D. Nev.) GC Litigation Summaries, Feb 11, 1998.
  13. Century Clinic, Inc., and Katrina Tang, Petitioners, v. United States of America. Brief for the United States in opposition to petition for a writ of certeriori, Feb 2000. [PDF}
  14. Canon S. Chiropractor accused of falsely claiming HIV virus had been cured. Kansas City Star, Sept 18, 1998.
  15. Canon S. Independence chiropractor faces disciplinary action. Kansas City Star, Feb 24, 2000.
  16. Caron S. Independence chiropractor gets two-year license suspension. Kansas City Star, Feb 24, 2000.
  17. Discipline Commitee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. In the matter of a hearing . . . between the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and Dr. Joseph Krop. Release date, Jan 20, 1999.
  18. Dentist's 6 month ban over device 'experiment.' The Advertiser, Feb 14, 1998.
  19. British Advertising Standards Organization. Adjudication: Allergy Testing Service, May 1999.
  20. Promoter of alternative therapy devices gives undertakings. News release, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, April 26, 2000.
 

Disciplinary Action Against Canadian Physician Who Used Vega Testing

© 2001  Ronald J. Grisanti D.C., D.A.B.C.O
NOTICE: This information is provided for educational purposes. Any medical procedures, dietary changes, or nutritional supplements discussed herein should only be undertaken on the advice of a qualified physician.

Ronald J. Grisanti, D.C., D.A.B.C.O
The Grisanti Alternative Medicine Center
4200 East North Street, Suite 14 • Greenville, SC 29615
(864) 292-0226 • FAX: (864) 268-7022