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Acupuncture - An Aid to Differential Diagnosis

by Susanna Dowie

listed in acupuncture

[Image: Acupuncture - An Aid to Differential Diagnosis]

It is immediately obvious when you pick up this slim, hardback book, that there is something unusual about it. The ring-bound pages are coated in hard-wearing plastic and each page is split horizontally down the middle, giving you effectively 2 books in one. The text is bullet pointed and brief, and the overall look is more of a series of flash cards than a book. And it's exactly this clever layout that makes the idea work.

Aimed at student acupuncturists and new practitioners, Susanna Dowie has created a book that aims to "provide the briefest of summaries for the Chinese Medicine interpretation of our clinical encounters". Intended as an aid both to learning and to diagnosis, this book is a clever distillation of the vast amounts of information required by a practising acupuncturist into brief notes which can be quickly accessed when needed.

The top half of the book has 50 of the most common disease classifications - insomnia, oedema, hypertension and so on, each disease taking up only 1 double page so that you can easily see all the information at once. On the bottom are the Chinese syndromes (or 'patterns of disharmony') arranged by organ.

This clever layout allows you to quickly look up a disease in the top half and then cross reference with relevant Chinese syndromes in the bottom. For instance, if you look up Diarrhoea in the top section, you findĀ  the top left page listing the orthodox Western medical differentiation - gastroenteritis, food allergies, bowel cancer, Crohn's disease and so on, with a brief list of expected symptoms for each. On the top right page we have the Chinese medicine counterpart, with ideas on how to make a differential diagnosis, what to look for, what questions to ask, and finally a list of suggested patterns.

You can then keep the top half of the book open on that page while you flick through the bottom half until you find the relevant Chinese diagnosis. Here you will find aetiology, underlying / accompanying pathology, signs and symptoms, tongue and pulse presentation, treatment principle and then a list of suggested acupuncture points and patent herbal remedies.

The skill to making the correct diagnosis is in asking the right questions, and looking for the right things. As a student or new practitioner, it can be hard to remember everything you need, and that's where this book would come in handy. The suggested questioning and sample acupuncture points are enough to jog the memory, maybe provide a little inspiration, and act as a springboard to further investigation or research if necessary.

Also included at the front of book are some very useful charts and diagrams which neatly summarize the main theories of Chinese medicine; for instance there are diagrams describing the production of Qi, the Chinese clock, and the acupuncture points of the ear, and charts of pulse diagnosis, 5 element correspondences etc. These are brief, well laid out, and to the point - again, they are intended to as an aide memoir rather thanĀ  a full discussion of the topic. As an aid to learning for a student, these pages would be invaluable!

Susanna Dowie is an experienced practitioner and teacher of Chinese medicine, and principal of a major acupuncture college, and is thus perfectly placed to write such a book. To fit 50 conditions and all of the Chinese syndromes into just over 100 pages is no mean feat, and the ease of use of this unique book is testament to her experience and expertise.

The only drawbacks, if any, come from the inevitable loss of detail involved in condensing such a huge body of knowledge into such a small space. Not every condition you might wish to know about is here, and nor could it be, and sometimes you might find yourself wanting just a bit more detail. Nevertheless, the amount of information packed into such a small book is astonishing! I did have a few problems locating some of the information I was after when I first started using the book, and I think the index could have been expanded. For example, I couldn't find 'eczema' in the main body of the book, and there is nothing listed in the index under 'E', nor is there any entry for 'skin'; I eventually found it at the start of the book under the heading 'Atopic Eczema'. This is a minor quibble though, as I quickly became used to the layout and on the whole things are quite easy to find.

There is no other book quite like this one, and I think that it is well needed and will prove extremely popular, especially with acupuncture students. The book is small enough to slip into a bag and carry with you, whether to help you with revision, or to take to clinic, and cleverly arranged to allow quick access to the information you're after. I wish this book was available when I was a student!

Neil Kingham
Churchill Livingstone

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