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Complement Ther Med. 2003 Jun;11(2):93-7.

Incidence of adverse effects during acupuncture therapy-a multicentre survey.

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Kongsberg Sykehus, Anestesi, Smerte-og Palliativseksjon, Kongsberg, Norway.



Acupuncture is frequently used to treat chronic pain syndromes or other chronic diseases. Several hundred reports have been published of life-threatening adverse events after acupuncture. The aim of our study was to assess the adverse effects of acupuncture during a normal treatment routine.


Thirteen general practitioners and outpatient clinics and 16 other practitioners were included in a questionnaire survey in Germany. Patient gender and age, indications for and method of treatment, and adverse effects were documented by the therapists.


Four hundred and nine patients receiving 3535 acupuncture treatment were included. Adverse effects were observed in 402 treatments (11.4%) in 153 different patients. The main side effects were slight haemorrhage (2.9%), haematoma (2.2%), dizziness (1%) and other systemic symptoms (2.7%). Other side effects mentioned (all below 1%) were fainting, nausea, prolonged DeQi effect (paraesthesia) and increase of pain. In one case, aphasia was reported lasting 1h after acupuncture.


Acupuncture has adverse effects, like any therapeutic approach. If it is used according to established safety rules and carefully at appropriate anatomic regions, it is a safe treatment method.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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