Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wrong time for alternative medicine.

Recently, I had a patient come in with a hemoabdomen, or free blood in the belly.  In veterinary medicine, this is typically the result of a bleeding tumor (malignant or benign), trauma, or ingestion of rat bait.  Other causes definitely exist, but are not the point of this post, and so I'm going to leave them out.  Unfortunately for this patient, there was no history of trauma and no possible exposure to rat bait.

At arrival, my patient was unable to stand, tachycardic, had pale gums, and a visibly distended abdomen.  Classic findings for a hemoabdomen.  Classic findings for hemorrhagic shock and a very unstable patient requiring aggressive intervention, otherwise death is soon to follow.

The even more unfortunate thing is that the owner came with records from her regular clinic from several hours prior to her arrival here. They diagnosed the hemoabdomen (imaging was performed, followed by removing a small amount of fluid with a needle, or an abdominocentesis), diagnosed a developing anemia (low red blood cell count, secondary to blood loss), and then, for me, they did the unthinkable.  They sent the patient home with an herbal medication.  An actively bleeding patient. Home.  The plan was to pursue surgery the following day if the bleeding did not stop.  Anyone with any medical training will realize how crazy this is, and those of you who are not hopefully will realize that this is not a typical recommendation.

I don't even know what to say.  I'm frustrated.  Bleeding is one of the most emergent emergencies.  Bleeding of this sort of severity doesn't stop without treatment.  There's definitely a place for alternative medicine, chiropractic, accupuncture, herbs, supplements.... but it's hard for me to understand its use in this situation. 


  1. One of the human ER blogs I visit talked about a very similar issue the other day. Where someone diagnosed with an acute issue, sought out the care of a naturopath to 'cure' them. Alternative medicine has it's place. As a patient, I use it to help cope with idiopathic chronic pain issues alongside my GP. As a pet owner, I've used it to help my cats cope with stress and as a second opionon after one was diagnosed with HCM, again, alongside my regular vet. What really gets me about this story is that it's the vets office who sent the patient home, untreated.

  2. After consulting two veterinarians, one horse owner I know (not my client, thank goodness) called the psychic healer for her grade 3 ataxic horse. Dunno how that worked out, since the horse was almost certainly a wobbler. I hear about cases like these all the time, but it's particularly sad when a veterinarian has drunk the Kool-Aid.

  3. I'm totally with you guys. I can definitely agree with and understand the use for alternative modalities especially in chronic pain; especially in conjunctiion with traditional therapy of chronic illnesses, cancer, MS, back pain, arthritis, etc, etc.

    I just don't understand how those people can use it for an acutely life-ending condition, like this one, and be able to sleep at night. Where's the proof that an herb can stop arterial hemorrhage? There isn't any, because it does NOT work. i have another post on pet-psychics to come. ugh.

  4. Sadly I hear things like this more than I care too. For example did you know there are herbs that can "cure" Addison's disease or "replace" traditional medications and these herbs are prescribed by homeopathic veterinarians.. silly me gives my dog percorten and prednisone.

    I am all for "natural remedies" when appropriate, but dead adrenal glands are not coming back..