Learning Radiology xray montage

Acupuncture Needles

General Considerations

  • Performed widely in US, especially amongst Chinese, Korean and Japanese Clinical Findings
  • Needles that are about 1 mm in diameter and 1-1.5 cm long
  • They are inserted for 15 minutes or so and usually removed
  • May be inserted with a spring-loaded syringe
  • Japanese form is called Hari and involves permanent placement of needles about 3 cm deep into subcutaneous tissues and of breaking needle off at skin
  • Belief is the retained needles continue to provide their stimuli
  • Frequently inserted along vertically oriented “meridians” (parallel lines)

Imaging Findings

  • Needles are metallic, made out of stainless steel, silver or gold
  • The needle tips may be straight, curvilinear or semicircular
  • Uniform in size and linear in arrangement

Differential Diagnosis

  • Metallic sutures


  • They stay in the body forever, rarely causing complications


  • They may migrate
  • They may be the cause of foreign body granulomas or cause dermatitis
    • Migration may be to solid organs or hollow visci 

acupuncture needles acupuncture needles

Acupuncture Needle Fragments. There are innumerable small metallic fragments of acupuncture needles that have been permanently retained in the subcutaneous tissue of this patient's back (white oval).
For these same photos without the arrows, click here and here

For more information, click on the link if you see this icon

Permanently Retained Acupuncture Needles: Radiographic Findings and Case Report. Penelope J. Galbraith, Michael L. Richardson Radiology Case Reports, Vol 1, No 4 (2006)


Images in Clinical Medicine. Acupuncture-Needle Fragments. Ernest S. Chiu, B.A., and John H.M. Austin, M.D.N Engl J Med 1995; 332:304 February 2, 199