Lawsuit blames acupuncture for woman’s collapsed lung

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A San Diego woman has filed a lawsuit against a Chula Vista chiropractor accusing him of collapsing her lung during an acupuncture procedure.

Jamie Del Fierro filed a lawsuit last month against chiropractor Dr. Walker Scott. She and her lawyer tell FOX 5 he performed the procedure without a license.

According to the lawsuit, in January 2014, Del Fierro saw Dr. Scott to help relieve the pain of tension headaches. Dr. Scott began to perform acupuncture on Del Fierro, inserting needles in and along her neck, back and chest. She says that’s when she immediately began to feel something was wrong. She felt pain under her arm and experienced shortness of breath.

“I didn’t know if it was a nerve that was hit or a muscle, and maybe when I breathe it was kind of pinching the nerve, I had no idea. I mean anytime I had acupuncture before I had great results,” she said.

Del Fierro told the doctor about her pain, but says Dr. Scott dismissed her symptoms and sent her home. Hours later she found herself in the emergency room where doctors told her that her lung had collapsed.

“It’s a health and safety issue and we’re concerned that there are doctors out there of different fields practicing in acupuncture because it’s a way to add a new billing item on to their bottom line,” said attorney Sean Foldenauer.

Foldenauer, Del Fierro’s lawyer, says the lawsuit filed mid-January seeks unspecified damages, as well as a court injunction for Dr. Walker Scott to stop performing acupuncture on patients.

FOX 5 contacted Dr. Scott, who declined to speak on camera.

“It takes up to five years and over 3,000 hours in order to get board certified,” said Eileen Han, a national and state board certified acupuncturist.

Han says acupuncture is a widely-used practice based on ancient Chinese methods of inserting hair-thin needles at strategic points on the body to relieve pain. Most acupuncture points are on or near the surface of the skin, although some spots require needles to be inserted deeper. Han says cases of acupuncture-related pneumothorax -- when air enters the membrane separating the chest wall from the lung and causes the lung to collapse -- can happen if a practitioner is improperly trained. She says it only takes a few minutes to ensure that your acupuncturist is board certified.

“You can go to the…California state board they have a particular spot where you can type the number in. You can bring up all the names of licensed acupuncturists,” Han said.

“I just don’t want anybody to suffer like I did. I don’t want it to ever happen again, said Del Fierro.

“So it’s buyer beware. You need to check out your practitioner before you let them certainly stab you with a needle,” Foldenauer said.

To find a state-licensed acupuncturist, visit http://ca.gov/ and search "acupuncture."

FOX 5 confirmed Dr. Walker Scott is not listed as certified in the State of California to practice acupuncture.

For more information on Eileen Han Acupuncture, visit http://eileenhanacupuncture.com/.

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