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Disseminated methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus infection resulting from a paracervical abscess after acupuncture

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A young woman was treated for musculoskeletal neck pain with acupuncture and developed a local paracervical abscess that progressed to a disseminated sepsis. The treatment was performed with an unusually long retention time of the acupuncture needle. This unique case shows that although acupuncture is deemed to be safe, serious complications may arise.

Clinical record

A 16-year-old, previously healthy girl was experiencing left-sided neck pain. She had no history of trauma or intravenous drug use, and there were no associated symptoms such as fevers, chills, cough or rigors. Initially, she attempted to manage her pain with simple pain medications. One week after onset, and experiencing ongoing pain, she presented to her general practitioner, who treated her with acupuncture. Two acupuncture needles (about 5 cm long) were placed locally to the left side of her neck. One remained for only 15 minutes; the other was fully inserted with only the handle visible and remained in situ for almost 24 hours.

Three days later, she developed significant worsening of her neck pain, lymphadenopathy, fevers, sweats and rigors. The next day, she was admitted at a small rural hospital with left neck pain and stiffness, associated with left-sided back and chest wall pain. She was started on 1 g of flucloxacillin every 6 hours.

Her pulse rate was 107 beats/min, oxygen saturation was 98% on room air, body temperature was…