Author(s): Luyckx VA, Steenkamp V, Stewart MJ
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Abstract The use of folk remedies is widespread throughout Africa. Acute renal failure (ARF) is one of the most severe, but under-recognized, complications of folk remedy use. This report aims to describe the clinical presentation, outcomes, and nature of renal injury in patients with folk-remedy-associated ARF. Clinical data were evaluated retrospectively in 78 patients with ARF associated with recent folk remedy use. ARF was defined as elevated serum urea and creatinine above the age-appropriate normal ranges, persistent oligoanuria, worsening renal function with time, or need for dialysis. Overall mortality in patients with ARF was 41\%. Mortality was higher in adults (45.5\%) than in infants (36.6\%), in patients with both renal and liver dysfunction (62.5\%) than in those with renal dysfunction alone (22.6\%), and in HIV-positive (44.4\%) versus HIV-negative (34.6\%) patients. Vomiting (51.3\%) and diarrhea (43.6\%) were the most frequent presenting symptoms. Metabolic acidosis (80.8\%) and volume depletion (62.8\%) were the most frequent clinical findings. The definable causes of ARF were pre-renal (26.9\%), acute tubular necrosis (ATN; 26.9\%), hepatorenal syndrome (6.4\%), urinary tract infection/sepsis (7.7\%), and primary renal disorders (7.7\%). Twenty-seven patients had concomitant medical conditions unlikely primarily related to folk remedy ingestion. In conclusion, ARF occurring after use of folk remedies in South Africa is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The most common contributors to ARF in this setting are volume depletion and ATN. Significantly, although a proportion of patients have underlying systemic or renal conditions that may contribute to renal dysfunction, in the majority of patients, folk remedy use appears to be the most likely proximate cause. In view of the large numbers of Africans living abroad, more widespread awareness of this important clinical problem needs to be raised.
This article was published in Ren Fail
and referenced in Journal of Nephrology & Therapeutics