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Harm from acupuncture

Infections
Trauma
Comment

It is rare to find a systematic review devoted to adverse effects. Examining acupuncture for life-threatening adverse reactions [1] shows a number of potential problems, not all of which are recognised commonly. Fifty-six articles were identified, examining two main areas.

Infections


Infections linked to acupuncture and the improper handling of needles or their reuse without adequate sterilisation included hepatitis B and C, HIV, bacterial endocarditis and staphylococcal septicaemia. These studies included overviews, epidemiological surveys and case reports.

Trauma


There are apparently over 60 cases of pneumothorax caused by acupuncture reported. Other traumatic events include cardiac tamponade and punctured heart, including at least one actual death.

Comment


This refreshing little review points out that the seemingly innocuous, if done improperly or without care, can result in serious harm. The numbers of patients harmed by acupuncture in this literature review is difficult to assess, but runs into the hundreds. Choosing acupuncture because it is deemed harmless may be a poor choice.

Reference:

  1. E Ernst, A White. Life-threatening adverse reactions after acupuncture? A systematic review. Pain 1997 71: 123-6.
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