An autopsy case of vagus nerve stimulation following acupuncture

Leg Med (Tokyo). 2015 Mar;17(2):120-2. doi: 10.1016/j.legalmed.2014.11.001. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


Acupuncture is one of the most popular oriental medical techniques in China, Korea and Japan. This technique is also popular as alternative therapy in the Western World. Serious adverse events are rare following acupuncture, and fatal cases have been rarely reported. A male in his late forties died right after acupuncture treatment. A medico-legal autopsy disclosed severe haemorrhaging around the right vagus nerve in the neck. Other organs and laboratory data showed no significant findings. Thus, it was determined that the man could have died from severe vagal bradycardia and/or arrhythmia resulting from vagus nerve stimulation following acupuncture. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a death due to vagus nerve injury after acupuncture.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Autopsy; Forensic pathology; Vagal stimulation; Vagus nerve.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Autopsy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vagus Nerve / pathology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology*