17 Cases of Acupuncture Related Pneumothorax and Factors Influencing Pneumothorax

Acupunct Electrother Res. 2016;41(2):95-105. doi: 10.3727/036012916x14666839504596.


Objectives: Acupuncture is increasing in popularity as a complementary and alternative medicine. Pneumothorax is the most common and potentially serious adverse effect after acupuncture. This complication can cause fatality in the absence of rapid treatment. Here, we analyze the clinical presentation and discuss prevention of post-acupuncture pneumothorax and an approach to reducing this complication.

Methods: Patients presenting with post-acupuncture pneumothorax in our hospital center during 2011-2015 were retrospectively analyzed. Body mass index (BMI), patient's pre-acupuncture chief complaint and disease, and the characteristics associated with pneumothorax were assessed. The diagnosis of pneumothorax was based on clinical presentation and chest radiography. Conservative treatment or thoracostomy was performed.

Results: Seventeen patients (15 women and 2 men) with a mean age of 42 years (range: 18-73 years) were included; three were underweight (BMI < 18.5kg/m2), 11 patients had a healthy weight (BMI= 18.5-22.95kg/m2), one was overweight (BMI = 23- 24.95kg/m2), and two were obese (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2). All but one case of bilateral pneumothorax had unilateral pneumothorax (right side: 6; left side: 10). Chest pain or dyspnea, or both. were the initial symptoms in all patients. Twelve patients underwent immediate thoracostomy. The patient with bilateral pneumothorax underwent right-side thoracostomy, and subsequently left-side thoracostomy, due to progression of the left-side pneumothorax. Five patients were successfully managed conservatively. All patients had an excellent outcome; all were asymptomatic and exhibited a normal chest X-ray at follow-up.

Conclusion: Acupuncturists must be aware that delayed diagnosis and management of pneumothorax are life-threatening, and when symptoms of possible pneumothorax arise, patients should be advised to undergo an appropriate evaluation and intervention, particularly so in those with abnormal BMI.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumothorax / diagnosis
  • Pneumothorax / etiology*
  • Pneumothorax / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracostomy
  • Young Adult