Research: YAMASHITA and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 46


YAMASHITA and colleagues, Tsukuba College of Technology Clinic, Tsukuba City, Japan. write that many of the frequently reported adverse effects of acupuncture are serious and severe, including pneumothorax, infection, spinal cord injury or cardiac injury . The authors reviewed all relevant cases reported by the therapists at their clinic over a 6-year period.



All acupuncture and moxibustion therapists at the Tsukuba College of Technology were required, over a 6-year period, to report all cases of adverse events immediately upon recognition.


84 therapists (13 preceptors and 71 interns) participated in the treatments. Th e total number of treatments was 65,482 . There were 94 (0.14%) adverse events reported during that period. These were under 14 categories reported: failure to remove needles (27 cases) ecchymosis or haematoma without pain (9 cases), ecchymosis or haematoma with pain (8 cases), burn injury (7 cases), discomfort (7 cases), dizziness (6 cases), nausea or vomiting (6 cases), pain in the punctured region (6 cases), minor haemorrhage (4 cases), aggravation of complaint (4 cases), malaise (3 cases), suspected contact dermatitis ( 3 cases), fever (3 cases), numbness in the upper extremities (1 case).


No serious or severe cases such as pneumothorax, infection or spinal cord injury were reported by college preceptors or interns, indicating that serious or severe adverse events are rare in standard practice. The authors suggest that most severe or serious cases of adverse events caused by acupuncture reported in journals are actually cases of negligence. They further suggest that negligence should be discussed from the point of view of medical education and technical instruction for therapists, and adverse reactions should be discussed from the point of view of incidence and prevention bases on the results of further investigation.


Yamashita H et al. Adverse events in acupuncture and moxibustion treatment: a six-year survey at a national clinic in Japan. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 5(3): 229-36. Jun 1999.  

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