Misdiagnosed – Painful Obstruction #4

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Qì and Blood Depletion – Liver and Kidney insufficiency mistaken for wind-cold-damp painful obstruction.

Misuse of the Fire Spirit Current.

[Patient] Xu was a 59 year old woman who is chronically exposed to water- damp while working. After many years she developed joint-bone limp aching pain that sometimes was mild and sometimes was serious. After retirement it progressively worsened year after year. She sought out many treatments from the hospital, but with no results. Someone recommended her an empirical formula of chuan cao wu (Aconiti et Aconiti Kusnezoffii Radix Lateralis) 50g, zhi fu zi (Aconiti Radix Lateralis Praeparata) 50g, gui zhi (Cinnamomi Ramulus 30g, qiang huo Notopterygii Rhizoma seu Radix) 30g, chuan xiong (Chuanxiong Rhizoma) 30g, ma huang (Ephedrae Herba) 15g, xi xin  (Asari Herba) 15g, gan song (Nardostachydis Radix seu Rhizoma) 30g, tao ren (Persicae Semen) 15g, hong hua (Carthami Flos) 15g, chi shao (Paeoniae Radix rubra) 15g, ru xiang (Olibanum) 15g, mo yao (Myrrha) 15g, and qian nian jian (Homalomenae Rhizoma) 30g.

One packet of this formula was taken and the pain did not decrease but instead there was incessant great sweating, flusterdness, and palpitations. At nightfall her extremities would alternately stretch out and contract, quiver, shake, tremor, and when serious they would jerk, cramp and produce pain that was difficult to endure. Although she went through emergency western medicine treatment to resolve the spasms and stop the pain, there still was no long-term relief. She therefore sought out Chinese medicine.

Upon examination, she had a bright white facial complexion and the tip of her nose, lips, mouth, and yin tang [area] all were green-blue purplish. [In general] her extremities would spasm and at times her muscles were stiff and rigid. Massage felt good, although she incessantly moaned. In her retelling of the past, she reported that after taking the medicine, mentioned above, she had shortness of breath, lack of strength, incessant sweating, aversion to wind, fear of cold, whole body stiffness, and increasing pain. Her tongue body was dark and crimson, the fur was thin with little fluid, and the centre of the tongue had fissures. Her pulse was thin, weak, and slightly rapid.

Differential Diagnosis: This was a deficiency painful obstruction with a misuse of a big formula that effused, dissipated, and attacked the painful obstruction [disease] which further damaged the qi, blood, and fluids, loss of nourishment of her sinews (and vessels), which lead to convulsions.

 The treatment method was to augment qi and nourish blood, tonify and augment the Liver and Kidneys in order to treat the root, as well as to dispel wind, eliminate dampness, and stop painful obstruction pain, simultaneously treating the tip. The formula given was a modified ba zhen juan bi tang jia jian (Eight Treasure Remove Painful Obstruction Decoction). After 2 packets the convulsions were reduced, pain was clearly relieved, and afterwards the method of supporting the right and dispelling pathogen was applied to bring about recuperative care and healing.

Commentary: This is a pattern of deficiency painful obstruction. The patient was close to 60 years old, and had chronic painful obstruction disease. Qì, blood, yīn and yàng all were deficient and normal [qì] deficiency was at the root. A lodged pathogen was the tip. The treatment method should support the normal as well as eliminate the pathogen. However, the first doctor thought the disease was an excess painful obstruction [disease], and stubbornly dispelled wind and eliminated dampness. Furthermore he used a large formula with chuan cao wu (Aconiti et Aconiti Kusnezoffii Radix Lateralis), zhi fu zi (Aconiti Radix Lateralis Praeparata), ma huang (Ephedrae Herba), xì xīn (Asari Herba), gui zhi (Cinnamomi Ramulus, and qiang huo (Notopterygii Rhizoma seu Radix) to effuse, dissipate, and attack the painful obstruction which consumed and damaged the qi, blood and fluids. This resulted in the channels [and vessels] losing nourishment and leading to convulsion. From the second examination the patient was seen to have flusteredness and palpations at night fall, her extremities alternately expanded and contracted, quivered and had tremors, bright white facial complexion, shortness of breath, lack of strength, dark crimson and red tongue with fissures and fur that was shiny with little fluids, and a weak slightly rapid pulse. This was a pattern of qi and blood deficiency and Liver and Kidney insufficiency.

Source:  [缪以星•临证随笔2 则•湖南中医学院学报,1986,(1):33]

Translated by: Jason Blalack

Commentary: I found this case interesting because it demonstrated how quickly and severely an incorrect formula can cause problems. The original formula was a fire spirit current approach. At first sight, it looks incredibly odd and somewhat incomprehensible as to why one would would give such high dosages of such medicinals. However, this type of formula (and dosages) is not uncommon in the fire spirit current. Such dramatic formulas, can have incredibly fast results, however they can also be extremely damaging. Obviously, correct diagnosis is important.

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