This case involves a young man in Nevada who sought acupuncture treatment for pain stemming from a lower back injury. During the acupuncture treatment, the defendant needled several points on the man’s chest using one of the longest needles available, which was inserted most of the way in, at which point the needle punctured the man’s chest cavity. Despite intense pain and brief periods of unconsciousness, the practitioner did not seek medical attention for his client, nor did he recommend that his client seek medical attention. It was alleged that the length of needle and depth of insertion was too great, causing the needle to puncture the man’s chest cavity and lung, and that the subsequent failure to seek immediate treatment exacerbated his injury. It was also claimed that there was no indication for acupuncture treatment in that area given his presenting complaint of lower back pain.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What are the indications for recommending acupuncture in this location?
- 2. What is the maximum length needle and depth that should be inserted in this space?
Expert Witness Response E-103198
I am a Chinese medicine practitioner with extensive experience in acupuncture. I have practiced Chinese medicine and acupuncture for 34 years. Acupuncture treatment is safe when done properly; inflicting a perforation of the chest cavity or lung during an acupuncture session is an obvious indication of malpractice. The space on the patient’s chest might be targeted to treat patients with suffocating sensation in the chest, pain in the hypochondriac region, and swelling and pain of the axillary regions. In the PC1 space where this injury occurred, you can use any length needle from 13mm to 75mm, puncturing obliquely 0.2 to 0.5 inch (5mm to 13mm). I have never witnessed this complication in my practice; it shouldn’t happen with proper technique.