August 13, 2016

The Wandering Kidney - A Discussion on Shèn Qí Wán by Keisetsu Ōtsuka

 The Wandering Kidney

- Keisetsu Ōtsuka (大塚敬節)

A while back, a male presented at the clinic looking to improve his overall health.  He complained that he would be easily fatigued following exercise, and afterwards would experience lower back and abdominal pain. He had been diagnosed with various conditions such as gallstones, kidney stones, and chronic appendicitis. Most recently following thorough examination, he was diagnosed with a wandering or floating kidney[1] on the right side. During abdominal diagnosis his kidney was easily palpated below his ribs on the right side when sitting up, however, when laying down the kidney was difficult to palpate. His appetite was normal as were his bowel movements and urination.
Shèn Qì Wán was administered, in accordance with the Jīn Guì Yào Lüè line that states,

“For deficiency taxation manifesting with lumbar pain, lesser abdominal hypertonicity, and inhibited urination, Bā Wèi Shèn Qì Wán (Eight-Ingredient Kidney Qi Pill) is indicated”.

After one month his fatigue had markedly improved and he no longer felt the lower back and abdominal pain.

Not long after this case, I saw a woman with a floating kidney, for which I reluctantly administered Shèn Qì Wán. Although the previous patient had excellent results with the formula, after giving this patient Shèn Qì Wán, she suffered from vomiting and poor appetite. The formula was discontinued after two days. This patients’ entire abdomen was soft and weak, with water sounds in the abdomen on percussion. In addition, her pulse was weak, appetite poor, and she experienced abdominal, back and lumbar pain, which were affecting her work. If Shèn Qì Wán is used in gastroptosia[2] or in patterns associated with sluggish stomach function manifesting with poor appetite, diarrhea, or vomiting there will frequently be side effects and great difficulty in resolution of the patients’ condition. There is also a line related to the formula in the Jīn Guì Yào Lüè, which states, “Eating and drinking as normal”, which clearly specifies that Shèn Qì Wán is not indicated in cases involving obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. Although the line is very clear, I still administered the formula, ignoring the pattern identification and therefore failed to control the disease. I changed the formula to Liáng Zhǐ Tāng, which was able to control the symptoms, and reduce the abdominal, back and lumbar pain. In addition, this patient also had obvious umbilical pulsations.
The famous Japanese doctor Wada Tōkaku (和田東郭- 1744-1803), said that umbilical pulsations are a typical Dì Huáng formula sign, but should be combined with lóng gǔ (Fossilia Ossis Mastodi), mǔ lì (Ostreae Concha), guì zhī (Cinnamomi Ramulus) and gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix) formulas, which also present with umbilical pulsations. Therefore one must be cautious in using Shèn Qì Wán based on umbilical pulsations alone.
Liáng Zhǐ Tāng is líng guì cǎo zǎo tāng (Poria, Cinnamon Twig, Licorice, and Jujube Decoction) with the addition of zhǐ shí (Aurantii Fructus immaturus), bàn xià (Pinelliae Rhizoma preparatum), and liáng jiāng (Alpiniae Officinarum Rhizoma). When I find umbilical pulsations with hardness in the abdomen, I will typically use this formula to attack and move the pain.

[1] Floating kidney is a condition that is also termed as hypermobile kidney or the wandering kidney. The medical name of such a condition is nephroptosis. In such a condition the kidney is seen to drop downwards when a person stands up or is transiting from a lying down to an upright position. It is also known as the kidney prolapse condition. The kidney moving downward suggests that it is not fixed fully by the tissues that surround it. Such a condition is not uncommon and has been noted over a century by physicians in many cases.

[2] Downward displacement of the stomach.