Disseminated methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus infection resulting from a paracervical abscess after acupuncture

Constantin E Dlaska, Scott Temple and Michael A Schuetz
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (10): 408-409. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00727

A young woman was treated for musculoskeletal neck pain with acupuncture and developed a local paracervical abscess that progressed to a disseminated sepsis. The treatment was performed with an unusually long retention time of the acupuncture needle. This unique case shows that although acupuncture is deemed to be safe, serious complications may arise.

A 16-year-old, previously healthy girl was experiencing left-sided neck pain. She had no history of trauma or intravenous drug use, and there were no associated symptoms such as fevers, chills, cough or rigors. Initially, she attempted to manage her pain with simple pain medications. One week after onset, and experiencing ongoing pain, she presented to her general practitioner, who treated her with acupuncture. Two acupuncture needles (about 5 cm long) were placed locally to the left side of her neck. One remained for only 15 minutes; the other was fully inserted with only the handle visible and remained in situ for almost 24 hours.

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  • Constantin E Dlaska
  • Scott Temple
  • Michael A Schuetz

  • Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, QLD


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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access_time 01:12, 27 December 2015
Bill Meyers

re: Disseminated methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus infection resulting from a paracervical abscess after acupuncture
Constantin E Dlaska, Scott Temple and Michael A Schuetz
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (10): 408-409.

On behalf of the Australian Medical Acupuncture College I wish to state that the College does not train medical practitioners to embed 5cm needles in patients.

All Quality Improvement and Continuing Professional Development Activities in Medical Acupuncture include Patient Safety as a core component.

It is regrettable that a young patient has been harmed by a medical practitioner performing acupuncture. However, if we place this case in the context of comparative risk, serious Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteraemia occurs in 0.9 per 10,000 Australian inpatients (1,621 in 2013-2014)

Using the Dept of Health data re numbers of GP services: and extrapolating from: JL Wardle, D Sibbrit, J Adams Acupuncture referrals in rural primary healthcare: a survey of general practitioners in rural and regional New South Wales, Australia Acupunct Med., 31 (2013), pp. 375–382, we find the rate of serious medical acupuncture infections in Australia to be less than 1 per 100,000.

Competing Interests: President Australian Medical Acupuncture College

Dr Bill Meyers

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