Acupuncture: safety first

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7091.1362 (Published 10 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1362

Training programmes should include basic medical knowledge and experience

  1. E Ernst, Professor (E.Ernst@exeter.ac.uk)a,
  2. A White, Research fellowa
  1. a Department of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter, Exeter EX2 4NT

    Acupuncture has been used for more than 3000 years, and many proponents claim that this fact sufficiently demonstrates its safety. Yet evidence of serious, potentially life threatening complications does exist.

    The use of non-sterile needles may cause infections. One overview identified 126 documented cases of hepatitis associated with acupuncture.1 HIV infections may also be a problem. Three such cases have been reported, although a causal relation has not been established beyond reasonable doubt.2 3 Several other potentially lethal infections have been reported. One patient contracted a subacute bacterial endocarditis due to infection with Propionibacterium acnes apparently via ear acupuncture.4 Similar cases of infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa5 …

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