This woman had severe pain in her knee. When doctor examined her, he was left in awe. When doctors examined an Xray image of the knees of a woman experiencing severe joint pain, they found a gold mine hundreds of tiny gold acupuncture needles left in her tissue. The 65 year old South Korean woman had previously been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage and bones within the joints degrade, causing pain and stiffness.
But when pain relievers and anti inflammatory drugs didn’t alleviate the pain in her knees and only caused stomach discomfort, she had turned to acupuncture, the doctors wrote last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Acupuncture is an alternative medical practice that uses needles to purportedly stimulate certain points of the body to alleviate pain or to treat various diseases.
In the woman’s acupuncture treatment, the needles, which were presumably made of gold, were intentionally left in her tissue for continued stimulation, according to the report. However, leaving the needles or any objects in the body may not be such a good idea, said Dr. Ali Guzmazi, a professor of radiology at Boston University who wasn’t involved in the case. Foreign objects left inside the body can lead to inflammation, abscesses and infection.
It could also make it hard for a doctor to read an X ray. The needles may obscure some of the anatomy, Gumazi said. The human body wants to get rid of the foreign object, Gumazi said. It starts with some mechanism of defense, for example, inflammation and forming fibrous tissue around the object. The woman had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, live Science reports.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is characterized by inflammation of the affected joint, damage to the cartilage of the joint, and bony growth surrounding the edges of the joints. Pain can result from the damage to the cartilage, which lines the bones and allows the joints to move without friction. Needles left in the body can cause other challenges, too.
The patient can go into an MRI because needles left in the body may move and damage an artery, Gumazi said. In such cases, X rays become risky because while gold is MRI compatible, there might be other metals in bodies iron, nickel that doctors can be unaware of. Metals that are attracted to magnets become magnets themselves when they enter a magnetic field, which could make metal within the body to twist and turn.
This can cause severe injuries and even death. Little evidence supports the idea that treating medical conditions with acupuncture actually works. However, the practice is widely used as a treatment for painful joints, and the insertion of pieces of sterile gold threads around the joint is a common treatment for arthritis in Asian countries, according to the new report. But she also attempted to ease her pain with gold thread acupuncture.
The alternative medicine practice resembles traditional acupuncture, in which very thin needles are inserted into the body. But with gold thread acupuncture, a short sterile piece of gold thread is inserted into the skin using the acupuncture needles, and the thread is left in the body, according to the report. The practice has long been used to treat joint pain in East Asia and worldwide, the report’s authors wrote.
But the woman’s case presented a couple of striking elements the severity of her rheumatoid arthritis, which caused joint deformities in her hands and feet, and that the gold threads were inserted at almost every deformed joint in her hands, said Dr. Kyungsoo park, a rheumatologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in South Korea who treated the patient. Though striking the gold threads don’t seem to have made the woman’s problems any worse, park said.
I don’t think gold thread is associated with the development of progression of rheumatoid arthritis, nor the aggravation of joint pain, park told Live Science. The woman’s case report was published in the December 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. According to researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Sean Brook National University in South Korea, the 65 year old woman had been undergoing acupuncture for osteoarthritis in her knees after medications had caused gastrointestinal problems and steroid shots were ineffective.
Gold thread acupuncture, commonly performed in Asian countries to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, involves inserting tiny gold threads in an affected area with acupuncture needles and leaving them there intentionally for continuous stimulation. All medical treatments have to go through vigorous testing to prove they work before they’re made available to patients. Alternative therapy is not subject to the same testing.
The lack of regulation also means some alternative therapies could be harmful or cause unwanted side effects, and choosing alternative therapies or shunning treatment altogether can prove fatal in illnesses like cancer. Many alternative treatments, such as homeopathy, are based on the idea the body can heal itself through exposure to highly diluted substances that cause an illness.
Alternative therapies can, however, be used alongside traditional medicine. There’s not a lot of good scientific evidence that acupuncture, especially gold thread acupuncture, can effectively treat chronic knee pain in the United States, an estimated 3.1 million US. Adults and 1500 children were treated with acupuncture in 2007, according to a survey by the US. National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Little medical evidence supports the notion that acupuncture is effective in treating medical ailments, but the practice is widely used as a treatment for painful joints.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for acupuncturists in Asian countries to insert fine gold threads around the joint to stimulate the tissue. What are the hazards of needle, stick and sharp injuries? These injuries transmit infectious diseases, especially bloodborne viruses. Concern includes the human immunodeficiency virus HIV, which leads to AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. This woman had something similar.
Incredible X rays show acupuncture needles buried along the spine of a 94 year old woman. The unnamed woman, who had recently been diagnosed with dementia, went to the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Toronto. After a painful fall, doctors took scans of her back and hips to rule out any fractures, only to discover what looked like tiny flecks along her spine and at the top of her legs.
The medics were told by the woman’s carers she had visited a traditional Korean Harry acupuncture clinic just once, 30 years before. Harry involves leaving needles permanently under the skin in the belief they relieve pain due to her suffering no ill effects from the alternative medicine. The woman was only treated for a urinary tract infection she was suffering from being before sent home.
The woman arrived at hospital after she claimed to have fallen over in an accident her cares did not see. According to BMJ case reports, doctors first examined her back and hips, which did not seem overly tender. Then they carried out x rays to be on the safe side. After discussing the images with the woman and her carers, the medics were told the patient, who was of Korean descent, visited a harry clinic with the intention of gold needles being left inside her to combat her ongoing pain.
The authors of the report claim it is unclear how many people have hari needles inside them, but they believe this woman’s 30 year case is the longest ever. Harry originated in Japan and is commonly practiced on the island as well as in Korea and among Asian communities in North America.