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Exploratory Surgery: Get a Second Opinion

Posted Apr 06 2010 3:23pm

You’ve heard the term ‘exploratory surgery.’

Sounds cool and macho.

However, when you are on the receiving end, or someone you love is on the receiving end, the term ‘exploratory surgery’ is far from cool or macho.

Actual Patient Case:

82 year old male with a severe bout of bilateral pneumonia treated successfully with antibiotics.

Then the pneumonia came back.

Pleural Empyema followed causing liters of fluid build-up in the lining of his lungs. While the paramedic was running the patient down the hall, he asked, “Do you want to be resuscitated if we lose you?”

Pleural Effusion

The patient ended up staying in the hospital for 3 weeks. Every few days the doctor would perform a thoracentesis removing fluid from between the lung’s linings.

There was no sign of the fluid production stopping.

The patient, who is my grandfather, called me and explained that he was going in for exploratory surgery. The doctors could not find a cause for the fluid and needed to open his chest and ‘dry the lungs out’ with powder.

Now, bear in mind that I was fresh out of naturopathic medical school but even so, it didn’t sound like the right way to go.

My first thought was lung cancer so I asked what the pathology report found in the fluid they removed. He told me the fluid was clear and no cancer cells found. Sounded promising but still something was missing. So I asked him to fax me the report.

The report explained that the 1.5 liters of pleural effusion was clear without signs of cancer. Eosinophils were found in high numbers.

Their diagnosis: Chronic Eosinophilic Pneumonia.

Bingo. No need for exploratory surgery.

Albeit nervous, I called his surgeon and explained my viewpoint that I wanted him to give me three weeks to reverse the fluid using my own treatments. The surgeon agreed to this but said at the end of three weeks, he was ‘going in.’ Fair enough.

The team of physicians were doing the right thing. They even nailed the diagnosis. However, they did not complete it as they do not have the means to treat this condition successfully. Steroids are not an option as they cause immune suppression, brittle bones and irregular sleep patterns; all of which you do not want an 82 yr old male to have.

The Cause:

My grandfather got exposed to cats and to mold. He is highly allergic to the feline kind and mold is downright deadly. He moved out of the apartment with suspected mold and no longer got exposed to cats.

He told the physicians about the cats but they did not consider his comments significantly.

Medical school pounded many things in my head. One is: “Patient history makes up 80% of the path to diagnosis. Laboratory testing and physical exam make up the remaining 20%.”

Patients often know the cause of their illness. If the physician is skilled at history taking, then an effective diagnosis AND treatment plan are put into action.

Treatment plan for my grandfather’s chronic eosinophilic pneumonia:

1. No cats. Move from moldy apartment.

2. N-Acetyl L Cysteine (NAC). 5 grams four times a day. NAC breaks up mucous and allows the patient to effectively expel and get it up and out. Given that my grandfather had liters of fluid in his lungs, he needed high doses of NAC.

3. Molybdenum . 3 drops a day. Molybdenum assists in breaking up sulfur bonds found in NAC (in the cysteine) via the sulfation pathway.

4. Sterol 117: 3 capsules in the AM on rising from bed and 3 capsules at PM on retiring to bed. Sterol 117 is a potent plant sterol product researched to help calm down hyperactive immune functions. Given that he had high numbers of eosinophils, I needed to calm his system down. High numbers of eosinophils cause inflammation. Inflammation causes fluid. My grandfather had liters of fluid…

5. Cod Liver Oil high in EPA and DHA . 2 tablespoons a day. In order to calm eosinophils and inflammation, DHA and EPA found in pure fish oil are highly beneficial as they stabilize cell membranes. Another benefit of Cod Liver oil is that it contains a good amount of vitamin D3 and vitamin A. Both vitamin A and D3 are effective at improving immune function.

6. Shower Filter . Chlorine is a lung irritant. Remove the irritant and keep your lungs heathy - especially if prone to lung infections or asthma.

My grandfather did not need ‘exploratory surgery.’

His surgeon was pleased but at the same time unsure. “Pleural Effusion never goes away on its own.”

In this case, it did and has not returned.

If you provide the body with the necessary nutrients it needs and remove the obstacles to cure, the body can heal itself beautifully.

Big points here:

1. If the treatment sounds wrong to you, question it. Trust your gut. Get a second opinion. 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th. Not one doctor has all the answers.

2. Create your own team. I highly recommend that you find a MD and ND who will work together for you. Find a naturopathic physician at the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians .

3. Doctors are busy and many don’t want to hear your long story. Come prepared with key points in mind and emphasize them. If they don’t listen to you, find a different doctor.

4. You know your body more than you think. You provide doctors often with the diagnosis through talking with them. Trust your instincts and be heard.

5. Nutritional support is paramount in every medical condition. Find a physician who understand nutrition and biochemistry sideways and backwards. ND’s excel here.

6. Your body has the ability to heal, if and only if, you remove the obstacles to cure. If you step on a thumbtack, don’t take a pain killer. Remove the thumbtack.

7. Terms like ‘exploratory surgery’ or ‘Idiopathic’ exist because the physician does not know the entire picture. Again, get a team. Two heads are better than one.

Let’s end with a great Exploratory Surgery Cartoon . Sums it up perfectly ;)

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