Intended for healthcare professionals


Adverse events following acupuncture: prospective survey of 32 000 consultations with doctors and physiotherapists

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 September 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:485
  1. Adrian White, senior lecturer (,
  2. Simon Hayhoe, anaesthetistb,
  3. Anna Hart, principal lecturerc,
  4. Edzard Ernst, professora
  1. a See Editorial by Vincent and p 486 Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter EX2 4NT
  2. b Pain Clinic, Colchester District General Hospital, Colchester CO4 5JL
  3. c Faculty of Science, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE
  1. Correspondence to: A White
  • Accepted 17 May 2001

Acupuncture is increasingly popular, but it is not free from risk for the patient.1 Safety is best established with prospective surveys. Our aim was to ascertain the incidence of adverse events related to acupuncture treatment, as currently practised in Britain by doctors and physiotherapists.

Participants, methods, and results

Volunteer acupuncture practitioners were recruited through journals circulated to members of the British Medical Acupuncture Society and the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (approximately 2750 members).2 A prospective survey was undertaken using forms for intensive event monitoring that had been piloted previously.3 Minor adverse events were defined as “any ill-effect, no matter how small, that is unintended and non-therapeutic, even if not unexpected.” These events were reported every month, along with the total number of consultations. Minor or serious events that were considered to be “significant”—“unusual, novel, dangerous, significantly inconvenient, or requiring further information”—were reported on separate forms when they occurred. Anonymous reporting was accepted. A sample size of …

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