Cardiac tamponade is a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause death if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Here we describe a case of cardiac tamponade caused by penetration of the right ventricular free wall by migrated acupuncture needles. The needles were detected and successfully removed with intraoperative transesophageal echocardiographic assistance.
A 49-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital after having chest pain and was then hospitalized 2 hours later after syncope. She had a history of recurrent episodes of pulmonary thromboembolism that arose from deep vein thrombosis. A Bird’s Nest filter (Cook Co, Leechburg, Pa) was implanted in her inferior vena cava for the prevention of embolism about 6 years ago. Four weeks before admission, she felt bilateral shoulder pain and subsequently received acupuncture treatments to relieve the pain. She was treated with acupuncture on her shoulder and upper back 2 hours before symptom onset. Her blood pressure was 70/48 mm Hg in the emergency department, where a transthoracic echocardiogram showed a large amount of pericardial effusion with tamponade features. After detecting fine and linear foreign material sized approximately 5 cm penetrating the interventricular septum and right ventricular wall (Figure 1, A), a pericardiocentesis was immediately performed. After draining about 600 mL of fresh blood from the pericardial cavity, blood pressure was normalized. The foreign material was seen in the fluoroscopic and computed tomographic examinations (Figure 1, B and C); however, there was no evidence of migration of Bird’s Nest filter (Cook Inc, Bloomington, Ind).
The emergency cardiac operation was done to remove the foreign bodies with intraoperative transesophageal echocardiographic guidance (Sonos 2000; Hewlett-Packard Co, Andover, Mass) with a multiplane probe. The transesophageal echocardiogram showed a needle-shaped mass crossing the interventricular septum. After the pericardiectomy, the needle-shaped foreign material was seen penetrating the right ventricular wall and was removed successfully. Despite of the removal, an intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography revealed another needle-shaped foreign body crossing from the interventricular septum to the left ventricular cavity (Figure 2, A). After a cardiopulmonary bypass, her left atrium was opened, and the foreign body was successfully removed. The removed foreign bodies were thin, needle-shaped materials (Figure 2, B).
The materials were proved to be acupuncture needles after a comprehensive analysis from the Department of Acupuncture, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University and the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Inje University. She was discharged after the operation without any complication.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment used to relieve pain from different causes.
1It is known to be a safe procedure, but serious complications, such as cardiac tamponade and endocarditis, do occur in rare cases.
- Melchart D.
- Weidenhammer W.
- Streng A.
- Reitmayr S.
- Hoppe A.
- Ernst E.
- et al.
Prospective investigation of adverse effects of acupuncture in 97,733 patients.
Arch Intern Med. 2004; 164: 104-105
2Cases with cardiac tamponade usually experience direct injury of the coronary artery or pericardium by the acupuncture needle. However, in this case cardiac tamponade occurred as a result of the migrated acupuncture needles.
- Cheng T.O.
Infective endocarditis, cardiac tamponade, and AIDS as serious complications of acupuncture.
Arch Intern Med. 2004; 164: 1464
3Reported cases of needle embolisms can be found, and previously, we submitted a case with cardiac tamponade caused by needle-shaped acrylic bone cement after a percutaneous vertebroplasty. Fortunately, cases with cardiac tamponade caused by migratory intravascular needles are extremely uncommon.
- LeMaire S.A.
- Wall Jr, M.J.
- Mattox K.L.
Needle embolus causing cardiac puncture and chronic constrictive pericarditis.
Ann Thorac Surg. 1998; 65: 1786-1787
Transesophageal echocardiography is useful in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, management of hemodynamic instability after cardiovascular operation,
4detection of pericardial tamponade, and identification of foreign bodies.
- Denault A.
- Ferraro P.
- Couture P.
- Boudreault D.
- Babin D.
- Poirier C.
- et al.
Transesophageal echocardiography monitoring in the intensive care department the management of hemodynamic instability secondary to thoracic tamponade after single lung transplantation.
J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2003; 16: 688-692
5In our case the second needle could be successfully removed with the assistance of an intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography. An intraoperative transesophageal echocardiographic examination can be useful in the diagnosis, characterization, localization, and guidance of the removal of foreign bodies.
- Fry S.J.
- Picard M.H.
- Tseng J.F.
- Briggs S.M.
- Isselbacher E.M.
The echocardiographic diagnosis, characterization, and extraction guidance of cardiac foreign bodies.
J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2000; 13: 232-239
We appreciate Tae Seon Baek, MD (Department of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University College of Oriental Medicine), for his assistance in the analysis of the foreign bodies.
- Prospective investigation of adverse effects of acupuncture in 97,733 patients.Arch Intern Med. 2004; 164: 104-105
- Infective endocarditis, cardiac tamponade, and AIDS as serious complications of acupuncture.Arch Intern Med. 2004; 164: 1464
- Needle embolus causing cardiac puncture and chronic constrictive pericarditis.Ann Thorac Surg. 1998; 65: 1786-1787
- Transesophageal echocardiography monitoring in the intensive care department.J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2003; 16: 688-692
- The echocardiographic diagnosis, characterization, and extraction guidance of cardiac foreign bodies.J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2000; 13: 232-239
Accepted: November 24, 2004
Received in revised form: November 21, 2004
Received: November 7, 2004
© 2005 The American Association for Thoracic Surgery. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.