Shaken Not Stirred

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Nose Knows

Yes, I know, lately I've had an obsession with smells. Firstly, with the new smell of cousin. The day after his party, I shopped for new colognes. And now, I've discovered that medicine also has it's peculiar smells.

I've been studying the little clues that some physicians use to tip them off towards a proper diagnosis. There are laboratory clues, the body areas a patient might point to as a source of pain, their description of pain, onset of pain, duration of pain etc, etc... The most bizarre of these clues is the smells given off by certain diseases.

I remember when I was going thru my surgery rotation, one of the physicians told me that once I smelled gangrene, I would never forget it. I would know gangrene the instance I smelled it and would recognize it from there on out. I thought to myself, it probably smells like really bad body odor. That ideal could not have been further from the truth. This smell was the worst thing my nostrils ever came into contact with. I can remember walking into the emergency room and being slapped, no knocked out by an odor so powerful that it lifted me and my co-fourth years off our feet. I actually said, "Who's ass was blended and smeared with limburger cheese onto a sardine". Yes, this physician was correct, I won't forget that smell.

While studying today I came upon some diseases in which scent was given as clues. The first disease is Bacterial vaginitis (Gardnerella vaginalis). This is a vaginal disesase in which a greenish vaginal discharge is noted. Microscopically, vaginal epithelial cells covered with bacteria can be noted. Okay enough of a clue for me--especially the microscopic clue--no other vaginitis would do that right? The next clue was--the discharge emits a fishy odor. WTF? I didn't know that smelling a patient's discharge was involved with presenting a diagnosis as well as it's differentials. I'm just going to go with the microscopic clue.

The next disease I studied today was maple syrup urine disease. As the name implies, a baby's urine would be sweet tasting. Someone back in history, and I'm guessing one of the people who first discovered this malady must have been dipping fingers into the beakers and testing the samples. WTF? What would drive a person to taste test urine? I've heard that rumor that if a person is stranded without water, they can drink their urine several times before it becomes poisonous (I'm thinking the Phoenix can maybe show us the light on this urban legend). Was it the same researchers who thought of this same theory?

Finally there is the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This is a common cause of urinary tract infections. The bizzare clue here is the fruity odor it gives off when cultured. Not once during my second year in the laboratory did I ever put my nose to a cultured plate of disease. I wore a mask and googles.

There you have some of the diseases with scents as their clues. I wonder when Febreeze is going to come out with their hospital line of air freshners.


  • Well, another confirmation as to why I didn't become a medical doctor....

    By Blogger Cathy, at 8:29 PM  

  • Funny we were just discussing pseudomonas--it emits a grape smell in infected patients.
    Nice review of all the smells. I'll use it as a reference guide!

    By Anonymous Babette, at 10:00 PM  

  • Ugh. I"m glad YOU"RE the one studying to be a doctor.

    By Blogger Lindsey, at 10:03 PM  

  • A very interesting post..curse my imagination that has a sort of Smell-o-vision.

    I used to watch Fear Factor and watch people eating gross things. I'd think to myself--how hard could it be?

    And then once upon a time I found a very wilted salad in a tupperware container at the back of my fridge and opened it.

    Oh gods! the stench! I would die if that went in my mouth. And that was salad, nothing more.

    I now know I could never go on a show like Fear Factor, and after reading your post, I will avoid the medical fields as well. :)

    By Blogger Spider Girl, at 10:16 PM  

  • I've already learned about Maple Syrup Urine Disease.

    By Blogger Gyrobo, at 10:16 PM  

  • Blech. I mean really...icky.

    But the silver lining is I'm
    happy to know that you can
    drink your urine three ? times
    before it becomes poisonous -
    just in case I get stranded
    on my hiking trail.

    smiles! (you funny man)

    By Blogger Maddy, at 11:04 PM  

  • Now I know why I did not become a doc :-D

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:26 PM  

  • Years ago, I had a roommate who was in medical school. I asked her why she wore the same clothes day after day one year. Her answer was, "Anatomy." She said when the class was over, she was going to burn her clothes. Apparently, the smells from that class were like smoke - in her hair, her clothes, her textbooks.

    I went to visit her at the lab once out of curiosity. She warned me about the smell of formaldehyde. She was right... the smell started four floors down in the elevator! I'm glad I wore sweats that day...

    By Blogger JJ, at 7:17 AM  

  • A sweet piss of a post.

    By Blogger :P fuzzbox, at 7:32 AM  

  • OMG that is crazy! I do member gangreen (sp?) that was a foul smell. And it looks pretty foul also. Man, I feel for your nose! I guess it's all for the good of science heh? Someone's gotta taste the urine! hahah

    By Blogger Cari, at 9:18 AM  

  • Wow. So does this mean I could diagnose myself if I ever get gangrene? ;)

    By Blogger the_mrs, at 9:57 AM  

  • Just a lovely post while I eat my eggs at breakfast !

    Thanks angel

    By Blogger Ben Heller, at 12:07 PM  

  • "Who's ass was blended and smeared with limburger cheese onto a sardine"....ROFLMAO!

    I knew a girl who got gangreen on her tongue, for having it peirced and then not cleaning it properly- nasty!!

    By Blogger vani, at 12:25 PM  

  • I heard that if you smell something you are actually tasting it so I guess you are actually tasting someones pee when you smell it.

    By Blogger Drywall Mom, at 1:30 PM  

  • Damn, your post makes me want to urp.

    I never ever ever want to smell any of those smells - from gangrene to bacterial vaginitis.


    By Blogger The Phoenix, at 3:15 PM  

  • I think you need to have a warning if you going to discuss the discharge associated with vaginal diseases. Yikes. I am glad I ate already.

    By Blogger mrshife, at 3:25 PM  

  • I've heard that back in the day, when Diabetes was suspected, the Doctor would taste the urine (because a Diabetic's urine is sweet.)

    I've heard urine is actually pretty sterile (usually) and it's probably safer to be pissed on than be spat upon.

    By Blogger coloradohurricane, at 3:29 PM  

  • I have a very sensitive nose, too! For a small nose, it can smell even the faintest scents. I think it missed it's calling - I could be a sniff doctor. Diagnosing by sniffing.

    Or maybe I was a dog in my past life! If you believe in such things ;-)

    By Blogger missy, at 4:08 PM  

  • What you can do is just spray Febreze directly into your nostrils. Yeah, it'll make you a little lightheaded, but no more so than the other smells, right?

    By Blogger Dirk the Feeble, at 5:09 PM  

  • thanks once again for myself being in your prayers. mothers are the best but are they better than wives?

    re smell - there is a human instinct to stay away from certain smells. smell some acid and it is your instinct that causes you not to drink it. smell some water and there will be no problem.

    By Blogger Kyle Foley, at 5:10 PM  

  • Interesting post, and all I have to comment is .... eeeewwwww !! Take care, Meow

    By Blogger Meow, at 5:38 PM  

  • you could make millions for Chanel you know

    By Blogger Chloe, at 6:19 PM  

  • Does gangrene smell worse than burning flesh?

    By Blogger Walter, at 9:27 PM  

  • I learned something today because of you!


    By Blogger sabatkes, at 11:32 PM  

  • Note to self: Avoid "Shaken Not Stirred" during meals.

    End note to self.

    -- david

    By Blogger David Amulet, at 8:03 AM  

  • I think you're pregnant...

    By Blogger LBseahag, at 10:19 AM  

  • Wow, you know if Grey's Anatomy makes being an intern sexy, I believe this post pretty much undid whatever Izzy in the shower did.

    By Blogger White Dade, at 2:42 PM  

  • First off, I wouldn't ever get that close to a Vagina to know (thank god).

    Secondly, who the hell came up with the Maple-syrup tasting Urine Test, or the Pseudomonas aeruginosa tests? DO they just dab a little about the neck and ears and offer it as Eau de Toilette?


    By Blogger epicurist, at 3:17 PM  

  • Fabreeze disturbs me. The way they market it I get the feeling more people are fabreezing and less people are cleaning than ever before.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:22 PM  

  • Wow! You've taken 'smells' to a whole new level!

    By Blogger Karen, at 3:34 PM  

  • a little too much information for my taste, haha, but informative nonetheless :).

    By Blogger joey♥, at 4:59 PM  

  • actually, once i cut my knee, on some coral (in the sea) when i was like 10. it got poisonous, so i had to treat it with antiseptic cream... now to this day the smell of antiseptic cream reminds me of my poisonous knee!

    i actually thought it was the poison that smelt till a few yrs ago

    By Blogger Leila, at 7:02 PM  

  • omg i was so sleepy and decided to catch up on blogs and man, this was gross and woke me right up!!! yuk

    By Blogger Just Help Me, at 8:36 PM  

  • drinking urine is supposed to be very good for you. my parents recommend it all the time. that and smearing it on my face (it's supposed to make your skin look very nice)

    By Blogger Anhoni Patel, at 7:51 PM  

  • Good lordy almighty, I've never heard of such a thing. Smelling and tasting for disease? Uh, wow. I can't even fathom that maple syrup urine thing...

    By Blogger ***Double_Oh_No***, at 10:30 PM  

  • I am completely grossed out now. Who in their right mind would taste baby urine?

    By Blogger Luke, at 1:41 PM  

  • Hi Nice Blog .In this, the body is studied by regions rather than by organs. This is of importance to the surgeon who exposes different planes after the skin incision and who, of course, must be perfectly familiar with structures as he explores the limbs and Human Anatomy study cavities.

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