A 65-year-old South Korean woman went to a doctor complaining of severe joint pain after receiving dozens of acupuncture treatments. When the doctor examined her X-rays he saw hundreds of acupuncture needles left behind in the soft tissue of her knees.
The unnamed woman was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a common cause of debilitating pain and stiffness in the knee joints caused by worn cartilage.
Doctors usually prescribe Tylenol®, Non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs NSAIDS (e.g. Motrin®, Advil®, Aleve®), and narcotic painkillers to treat the pain.
But when conventional medicine failed to alleviate her pain, the woman turned to acupuncture sessions for relief.
In acupuncture treatment, needles are used to relieve pain and other physical ailments by supposedly stimulating certain points in the body.
There is little scientific evidence to suggest that acupuncture works. Acupuncture provides a placebo effect for people who desperately want to believe the treatments work.
In the woman’s case, the needles, presumably made of gold, were left behind in the soft tissue for continued stimulation, Yahoo News reports.
Dr. Ali Guermazi, a professor of radiology at Boston University, cautions against leaving acupuncture needles inside the body. Needles are considered foreign objects and may trigger the body’s defenses to attack and form scar tissue around the objects. This could lead to inflammation, abscess, infection and more pain.
It could also make it hard for a doctor to read an X-ray. “The needles may obscure some of the anatomy,” Guermazi said.
“The human body wants to get rid of the foreign object,” Guermazi said.
“The patient can’t go into an MRI because needles left in the body may move, and damage an artery.”