A woman in New Zealand went to an acupuncturist with an arm and wrist injury and left with two punctured lungs. The 33-year-old turned up to her appointment in March 2018, told the practitioner she had pain in her neck and shoulder area, and was treated by way of needles inserted into her jian jing points, located at the very top of the shoulders. Later that night, she was in the local emergency department.
Stuff reports that the woman expressed pain as the needles went in and said that they felt "extremely deep." They were left in for 30 minutes, and the acupuncturist reportedly rotated them before pulling them out. As they were removed, the woman said she felt a sudden pain on the right side of her chest and experienced shortness of breath. By the time she left the practice at 2:30 p.m., she felt "very uncomfortable."
That evening, after resting at home and finding that the side of her chest was in pain and the right side was numb, the woman’s husband took her to a medical centre and she was subsequently referred to a local emergency department. She was ultimately diagnosed with two punctured lungs.
In a decision released yesterday, Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill found that the acupuncturist breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights when they failed to tell the patient there was a risk of pneumothorax — that is, a collapsed lung — or get written consent before performing the risky procedure. He recommended that the practitioner pursue further training on acupuncture needling techniques, and provide the Commission with evidence it had been completed.
In response to the finding, the acupuncturist said she "felt very sorry" about the patient’s collapsed lungs. It is thought that the low Body Mass Index of the patient — who weighed just 45 kilograms — may have increased the risk of complications.
The patient is reportedly still suffering the effects of the puncture.