In a rare and shocking case, an X-ray meant to check for fracture in a 94-year-old’s body revealed the presence of needles in her spine and legs from an acupuncture session that she had undergone thirty years ago.
The woman, of Korean descent, had recently been diagnosed with dementia and had visited doctors after an unwitnessed fall and urinary tract infection, as mentioned in BMJ case reports.
Daily Mail reported that when doctors at the division of general internal medicine at the University of Toronto took scans of her back and hips to identify any fractures, they discovered tiny flecks along her spine and the top of her legs.
The woman’s caretakers informed doctors about her visit to a traditional Korean Hari acupuncture clinic around three decades ago, with the intention of leaving gold needles inside her to combat her ongoing pain.
The report explains that gold needles predominantly represent financial wealth in Korean culture. However, this practice is considered rare compared with traditional forms of acupuncture, whereby needles are subsequently removed.
Authors of the report have claimed that it is unclear how many people have these needles inside them, and that there have been cases when these move from the muscles where they were left to the internal organs.
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 are 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.