Physicians who work at a Germany clinic state that Dr. Gregory House of the television show House, M.D. actually helped to give them an surprising diagnosis for a heart failure patient that ended up saving the man’s life. Even though the bedside manner of the pessimistic, drug abusing Dr. House left much to be desired, fans of the TV show always loved to see him solve the mysteries of diseases. Now he has saved a person in real life.
House was a drama set inside a hospital where each episode was centered on Dr. House chasing the “bad guys” and those were always the illnesses that people had. Because of such a basis, the show’s writers probably had to scan through never-ending medical encyclopedias in order to come up with such a story line of increasingly vague diseases so to keep the show on the air for eight seasons.
The range of illnesses on the show was so extensive that Professor. Juergen R. Schaefer, who is the director of the Center for Undiagnosed Diseases in Germany, has a medical class where he instructs students to be better able to diagnose rare diseases by using the television program. This class has caused Dr. Schaefer to become nick-named the “German Dr. House” in the media. However, the physician’s unconventional teaching approach does not appear to be a joke. It turns out that Dr. Shaefer and his associates’ comprehensive knowledge over the television show has had astonishing results.
A patient came to the German Marburg clinic in 2012 suffering from severe heart failure. Any prior medical analyses had already determined that the most likely cause of coronary artery disease was not the problem. Yet in spite of returning to the hospital numerous times over the course of a year and having an assortment of symptoms, the patient’s doctors were unable to make any type of diagnosis to what was behind the heart problems.
The indicators the man was showing, included fever, esophagitis, hypothyroidism, loss of sight, increasing deafness and of course the heart failure. He was appearing to have very similar symptoms to a case that had been on House, M.D. In that particular episode, Dr. House had ended up diagnosing his patient as having cobalt poisoning which was being caused by debris circulating in the body which had come from a metal hip replacement.
As physicians looked over the patient’s past medical history, they discovered that two years earlier the man had went through a hip replacement surgery, in which a ceramic broken hip prosthesis had been replaced with a brand new metal hip replacement. After blood tests were taken, they showed the patient have extremely high levels of cobalt and chromium in his blood. When a radiograph was taken, it indeed confirmed that the metal from the hip replacement had broken from his hip and was causing “cobalt intoxication”.
Although cobalt intoxication has been known as a major cause of heart disease for over 50 years, it had mainly been found in steel workers who were exposed to cobalt each day as they were at work. Regardless cobalt has been used in hip replacements because it has been shown to be a steady compound. Yet on some occasions, there were technical problems found while the prosthetic hip was being installed, and errors occur. If so, then cobalt might enter the bloodstream and begin poisoning the patient. Prof. Schaefer stated that cobalt intoxication from these defective hip replacements is a problem that appears to be increasing and is definitely life-threatening if the cobalt gets into the bloodstream.
This certain episode of House which featured the diagnosis was aired in February of 2011. It was just a couple months before Medical News Today printed a press release that listed the dangers of cobalt toxicity from the metal hip replacements. The physicians in Germany give credit to Dr. House for giving them a surprising diagnosis for a heart failure patient that ended up saving the man’s life.
By Kimberly Ruble
The Washington Post