House may have a unique claim to fame, one his predecessors cannot boast: he may have saved a real-life patient.
Medical dramas are nothing new. From Emergency, to Marcus Welby, M.D., to modern day shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy, these shows appear constantly on television. The inherent drama of a career in medicine has always fascinated the general population. Detective stories, like those of Sherlock Holmes or Sam Spade, also hold a special place in the hearts of the modern public. It was only a matter of time, then, that the two would merge into something new, and that something new was House. Combining the medical knowledge of the denizens of the Mayo Clinic with the deductive reasoning made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal Sherlock, Dr. House, played by Hugh Laurie, captured our imaginations and kept us watching for eight seasons.
As Medical News Today reports, a devoted fan of the titular doctor recalled an episode of the show when solving his own medical mystery. Professor Juergen R. Schaefer, director of the Center for Undiagnosed Diseases in Marburg, Germany, teaches a class on diagnosing rare diseases. As a teaching tool, Prof. Schaefer uses House. This intimate knowledge of the show, it seems, led the Professor to accurately diagnose a mysterious ailment in a patient.
The patient came to the Center complaining of a laundry list of symptoms, including “hypothyroidism, esophagitis, fever, increasing deafness and loss of sight, as well was [sic] heart failure.” Coronary artery disease, the most likely diagnosis, had already been eliminated as a possible diagnosis when the patient was transferred to the Center. However, the symptoms sounded familiar to Prof. Schaefer. It turns out that those very same symptoms occurred in an episode of House, where the patient had received a hip replacement that consisted of plastic covering a metal frame. The metal used was cobalt. Prof. Schaefer’s patient had received such a hip replacement two years prior.
Cobalt poisoning is a common ailment amongst steel workers who had been exposed to the metal for years. However, the Medical Journal of Australia published an article, mere months after the air date of the relevant episode of House, warning of the life-threatening danger of cobalt poisoning amongst recipients of certain kinds of hip replacements. Prof. Schaefer published a similar article in the Lancet recently.
Wrong or Delayed Diagnosis
The mysteries faced by Dr. House during his eight year run were far from common, and they often involved multiple misdiagnoses from the very beginning. Unfortunately, normal, everyday diagnoses are often missed by doctors. Sometimes there is a malfunctioning instrument. Sometimes the doctor is distracted, overtired, or overworked. Sometimes a chart is misread. For whatever reason, common ailments that are easily diagnosed are diagnosed late, or incorrectly. This can result in permanent injury, or it can result in death. Should this happen, the doctor, nurse, or hospital may be liable for the injuries caused.
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