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J Korean Med Sci. 2018 May 9;33(24):e164. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2018.33.e164. eCollection 2018 Jun 11.

Infectious Adverse Events Following Acupuncture: Clinical Progress and Microbiological Etiology.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.



We investigated the clinical progress and bacteriological characteristics of infectious adverse events (AEs) following acupuncture and compared patient characteristics between serious and non-serious outcome groups.


A retrospective observational study was conducted in 1,174 patients with infectious complications associated with acupuncture at the emergency department (ED) in a tertiary hospital in Korea between 2010 and 2014. Serious outcome was defined as development of septic shock, admission to intensive care unit (ICU) or attaining permanent morbidity.


Forty-eight patients had certain causality and cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis and osteomyelitis were common in order. Among them, 9 patients (18.8%) were categorized into serious outcome group, and they showed devastating outcomes such as septic shock (n = 2), ICU admission (n = 4), and permanent sequelae (n = 5). The serious group had delayed admission to the ED after acupuncture (30.0 [4.0-55.0] vs. 3.0 [1.0-10.0] days, P = 0.023). Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus was the most frequently identified microorganism. The patients in the serious group required longer treatment duration (139.0 [49.0-183.5] vs. 14.0 [7.0-34.0] days, P < 0.001) as well as more operation with local (44.4% vs. 10.3%, P = 0.031) or general anaesthesia (33.3% vs. 2.6%, P = 0.017).


The infectious AEs after acupuncture may cause serious outcomes. Patients and primary physicians should be aware of the risk of infectious complications and make efforts to prevent them.


Acupuncture; Complications; Infection

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