Acupuncture patients risk infection, experts warn - Macleans.ca
 

Acupuncture patients risk infection, experts warn

Hepatitis B and C, even HIV could be transmitted


 

Acupuncture patients are at risk for bacterial infections, hepatitis B and C and maybe even HIV infection due to contaminated needles, cotton swabs and hot packs, according to experts writing in the British Medical Journal. Microbiologists from the University of Hong Kong have warned that the number of acupuncture-related infections worldwide was just the tip of the iceberg, calling for better infection control measures like disposable needles, skin infection procedures and aseptic techniques, the BBC reports. One of the most widely practiced types of alternative medicine, acupuncture is based on the notion that inserting and manipulating fine needles at certain points in the body helps promote the flow of “Qi,” or energy. It’s used for everything from obesity, pain treatment and arthritis. Needles are inserted several centimetres beneath the skin at times, say experts, who warn that up to 10 per cent of bacterial infections resulting from acupuncture end up with problems like joint destruction, multi-organ failure, flesh-eating disease and paralysis.

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Acupuncture patients risk infection, experts warn

  1. I have usually offered the line about these alternative therapies: Likely useless, likely expensive, but likely won't kill you. I may have to amend that.

    HIV and Hepatitis: very bad Qi.

  2. It's sad, but the threat of heath-inspection and fines often isn't enough to keep practitioners clean. I've walked out of acupuncture clincs that aren't clean. Individuals can't be shy when it comes to their health – weather it's a tattoo, piercing, acupuncture, if you don't feel comfortable asking the practitioner what their safety practices are, then you should not let that person poke you. That rule could also apply to other areas of life…

  3. In the United States, part of the national certification for acupuncture is to pass a Clean Needle Technique course, which includes the safe insertion of disposable needles, infection control procedures, proper hand washing, disinfection of skin before needling, bloodborne pathogens training, and maintaining the needle in a sterile state. It's a rare acupuncturist who would be careless enough to cause infection in their patients: it's bad for business. Feel free to ask any acupuncturist about their infection control measures: they should welcome your inquiries.

  4. Understanding and adhering to Clean Needle Technique is a mandatory part of achieving one's acupuncture license in Canada as well. Acupuncture is virtually risk-free when practiced safely by a qualified, competent acupuncturist. Like those before me have stated, talk to your practitioner, and if you should have any doubt, don't give up on acupuncture itself, just find an acupuncturist you are comfortable with. There may be a professional body in your area that can recommend someone to you.

  5. What a load of rubbish! I don't know of any acupuncturist who doesn't use sterile disposable needles. If you use clean needle technique then there is no chance of such infection. All members of the British Acupuncture Council abide by strict codes of safety. The chance of dying in a hospital due to infection is infinitely higher. For example Sepsis and pneumonia, two infections that can often be prevented with tight infection control practices in hospitals, killed 48,000 patients and added $8.1 billion to heath care costs in 2006 alone, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

  6. Why single out Acupuncture? Bio-Medicine work with organisms that are more likely to appear in a hospital, like staph and influenza, and we have our sights on Clostridia difficile, Pneumococcus aeruginosa, Acetinobacter baumanii and an alarming number of other bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Iatrogenic infections kill more people than cancer – which means the infection control process is not doing enough in bio-medicine. All medical systems need to work on a infection controls process to fight this menace effectively instead of pointing fingers at each other. Acupuncturists follow 'Clean Needle procedure' and use sterile individually packed needles with care and this comment may be true for stone age Acupuncture and not current Bio Medical Acupuncture practice.
    kind regards
    Dr. Vaman
    http://www.medaku.com

  7. In the US there is one standard mandated by the Clean Needle practice (CNT board) but other countries do not all share the same standard. In China for example they autoclave needles and re use them. They also use a needling technique that does not use an insertion tube which means the practitioner handles the body of the needle during insertion (in the US we are only to touch the handle and use sterile cotton for the body of long needles).

    That said even in US schools regular cotton balls are used, vs. sterile ones. Even the Clean Needle Technique board we take does not stress the use of sterile cotton balls for needle insertion or bleeding, only the use of regular cotton balls.

    There are also some very experienced practitioners that pre-date current training who will reuse the same needle on the same body. Some practitioners also use only one cotton ball with alcohol on the entire body – vs. one for each body area. These practices have the potential for spreading infection.

    That said in the US I know of very few cases of infection. We are trained to treat each patient as if they are infected and act accordingly to prevent infection.

    The most common way to spread infection is from the patient to the practitioner via a needle prick. or while bleeding a point. It is more difficult to go from patient to patient as long as disposable needles are used which is required, at least in the state where I practice. Not all states have laws governing acupuncture.

  8. I would like to see this "journal". It is unlikely that any studies were conducted in the Western world which came to these conclusions. This medical modality, and its "notions" has been around for thousands of years for a reason. It is effective, and safe. I have never encountered a practitioner who did not practice clean needle technique. Although there are rotten apples in every bushel, we should not be afraid to eat any of the apples. These experts would be of better service if they reported the (undoubtedly rare) cases they have stumbled upon, instead of striking fear into the public.

  9. Why single out Acupuncture? Bio-Medicine work with organisms that are more likely to appear in a hospital, like staph and influenza, and we have our sights on Clostridia difficile, Pneumococcus aeruginosa, Acetinobacter baumanii and an alarming number of other bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Iatrogenic infections kill more people than cancer – which means the infection control process is not doing enough in bio-medicine.

    All medical systems need to work on a infection controls process to fight this menace effectively instead of pointing fingers at each other. Acupuncturists follow 'Clean Needle procedure' and use sterile individually packed needles with care and this comment may be true for stone age Acupuncture and not current Bio Medical Acupuncture practice.

    kind regards
    Dr. Vaman
    http://www.medaku.com

  10. Why single out Acupuncture? Bio-Medicine work with organisms that are more likely to appear in a hospital, like staph and influenza, and we have our sights on Clostridia difficile, Pneumococcus aeruginosa, Acetinobacter baumanii and an alarming number of other bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Iatrogenic infections kill more people than cancer – which means the infection control process is not doing enough in bio-medicine.

    All medical systems need to work on a infection controls process to fight this menace effectively instead of pointing fingers at each other. Acupuncturists follow 'Clean Needle procedure' and use sterile individually packed needles with care and this comment may be true for stone age Acupuncture and not current Bio Medical Acupuncture practice.

    kind regards
    Dr. Vaman
    http://www.medaku.com

  11. As a Licensed Acupuncturist in New Hampshire, USA, in 10 years of practice I have not seen one patient become infected in my practice, nor in the practices of any of my colleagues. We are obligated by law to use pre-sterilized, disposable, one-use needles, so there is NO risk of transmitting HIV, HBV, HCV or any other blood borne illness. The risk of infection is easily managed by laws requiring disposable needles and Clean Needle Technique (described in earlier comments). So, this is more a failure of lawmakers to step up and protect the public health rather than a failure of acupuncture as a profession. Even where these changes are not mandated, I would wager that the majority of my colleagues have already put these safety measures into practice.

    FYI : Even back when Clean Needle Technique and disposable needles were not part of the acupuncture landscape, responsible practitioners kept a separate set of needles for each patient and they were sterilized in an autoclave after each visit. Interestingly enough, my Chinese instructors warned us to not have acupuncture in China, should we go there after school, as the rate of infection is indeed higher – again, failure of government to protect the public health, not a big surprise in a place like China.

  12. The worst thing about this article is that anyone thought it was useful or pertinent. If you look at the original, you find that the research goes back to the 1970s and 1980s and includes a total of 120 cases over a 40 year span, that's an average of 3 cases per year. The medical community should try to emulate our practices.
    The Guardian article contains this comment:
    "Professor Woo and his colleagues argue that acupuncturists need to observe infection control measures, such as using disposable needles, skin disinfection procedures, and aseptic techniques. They also call for stricter regulation and accreditation of acupuncturists." From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/besttreatm
    In other words this information is not applicable to trained practitioners in the US, Canada, or the UK and serves only to frighten the public. If you want to see some other rational responses try this:
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/340/mar18_1/c1268
    Please do a little more research before spreading out of date garbage like this.
    Thanks

  13. It's sad to see we are still living in the past, being driven by fear, and not seeking the facts ourselves. I am a licensed acupuncturist and I explain to EVERY patient what 'clean needle technique' is and that I use disposable needles. I don't know anyone who uses anything else.

  14. That's what they call needle to needle transfusion.

  15. I too agree that "Acupuncture patients are at risk for bacterial infections, hepatitis B and C and maybe even HIV infection due to contaminated needles"

  16. That was a needed topic to discuss and thanks for the info Rik Ehmann.

  17. I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.
    Regards:
    NABH