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October 2021

Schmerz. 1997 Feb; 11(1): 13-9.

[Adverse reactions to acupuncture]

Strzyz H, Ernst G.

Abteilung für Anästhesiologie und Operative Intensivmedizin, Virchow- Klinikum, Berlin.

Abstract.Acupuncture is frequently used as an alternative therapy to drugs in the treatment of pain patients. In this review we discuss adverse reactions to acupuncture by means of case reports and our own clinical experience.Frequent side effects of acupuncture are local pain, autonomic nervous system reactions (including fainting) and small local bleeding or hematomas. There are, however, some case reports of serious adverse reactions. Since 1980, there have been 18 pneumothoraces post acupuncture therapy reported in the literature. Hepatitis due to inadequate hygiene standards has also been reported. Some patients with valvular heart disease have developed endocarditis after acupuncture. Ear acupuncture with permanent needles can cause chondritis or perichondritis.For any acupuncture treatment, a careful case history and exact diagnosis are necessary. In particular, it should be determined whether wound-healing disorders, immunosuppression, coagulation defects, valvular heart disease or pregnancy are present, as all of these constitute relative contraindications to acupuncture. Hygiene standards have to be observed. Bearing these points in mind, acupuncture is a reliable method with few side effects.

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