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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Dec;5(4):391-8. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem086. Epub 2007 Sep 13.

Safety of acupuncture practice in Japan: patient reactions, therapist negligence and error reduction strategies.

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LAc, Department of Acupuncture, Faculty of Health Sciences, Morinomiya University of Medical Sciences, 1 Nanko-Kita, Suminoe-Ku, Osaka, Japan 559-8611.


Evidence-based approach on the safety of acupuncture had been lagging behind both in the West and the East, but reliable data based on some prospective surveys were published after the late 1990s. In the present article, we, focusing on 'Japanese acupuncture', review relevant case reports and prospective surveys on adverse events in Japan, assess the safety of acupuncture practice in this country, and suggest a strategy for reducing the therapists' error. Based on the prospective surveys, it seems reasonable to suppose that serious adverse events are rare in standard practice by adequately trained acupuncturists, regardless of countries or modes of practice. Almost all of adverse reactions commonly seen in acupuncture practice-such as fatigue, drowsiness, aggravation, minor bleeding, pain on insertion and subcutaneous hemorrhage-are mild and transient, although we should be cautious of secondary injury following drowsiness and needle fainting. After demonstrating that acupuncture is inherently safe, we have been focusing on how to reduce the risk of negligence in Japan, as well as educating acupuncturists more about safe depth of insertion and infection control. Incident reporting and feedback system is a useful strategy for reducing therapist errors such as forgotten needles. For the benefit of acupuncture patients in Japan, it is important to establish mandatory postgraduate clinical training and continued education system.

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