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Pneumothorax after acupuncture
  1. Sofia Costa Corado1,
  2. Margarida Graça Santos2,
  3. Luísa Quaresma1 and
  4. José Rodrigues Baltazar1
  1. 1 Serviço de Cirurgia, Centro Hospitalar Universitário de Lisboa Central, Lisboa, Portugal
  2. 2 Centro Hospitalar Universitário de Lisboa Central, Lisboa, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sofia Costa Corado, sofiacorado{at}


Acupuncture is a well-known form of complementary medicine that is increasingly being used worldwide. Despite being rare, pneumothorax is the most common serious complication described in acupuncture. A 79-year-old woman was admitted to the emergency department with a pneumothorax. Two days before, she had undergone an acupuncture treatment for chronic back pain. She felt a sharp right shoulder pain as needles were inserted in the interscapular area. As the pain did not resolve, she consulted her general practitioner and had a chest radiography done, revealing a right-sided pneumothorax. At the hospital, a right chest tube was inserted with relief of the symptoms and lung expansion. The chest tube was removed on the second day of admission, and she was discharged on the third day. Both acupuncturists and clinicians need to be aware of the possibility of adverse events following acupuncture, especially in those who develop symptoms.

  • pneumothorax
  • complementary medicine
  • respiratory medicine
  • emergency medicine

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  • Contributors SCC and MGS are equally responsible for conception, drafting of the case and design. SCC is responsible for literature search and intellectual content. SCC, LQ and JRB participated actively from the first moment with the patient as part of the medical staff at the emergency department. All authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.