Dr. Gregory House, the character played by British actor Hugh Laurie in the hit TV medical drama series "House" is a genius, but who would have thought that his ability to diagnose mysterious illnesses would go beyond the television set?
A 55-year old man from Germany whose illness baffled doctors, was finally diagnosed of his condition when a doctor, who happened to be a fan of the TV drama series "House," checked him.
The patient, a construction business owner, had been jumping from one doctor to another hoping to find a cure to his mysterious illness, which is characterized by severe heart failure, blindness, deafness, fever and enlarged lymph nodes.
Doctors could not pinpoint the problem but the mysterious illness was finally solved when the patient was referred to Marburg University clinic in 2012 where he met Dr. Juergen Schaefer, a cardiologist and intensive care specialist, who had been watching and using the TV series "House" as a learning tool for his students.
It was found that the symptoms showed up shortly after the patient had his artificial ceramic hip replaced by a metal one in 2010. A scan revealed that the metal in his hip had eroded and blood tests showed his cobalt level was a thousand times more than what is considered normal.
It didn't take long for Schaefer to recognize the symptoms because he had shown an episode of "House" to his medical students wherein a woman who had metal in her artificial hip, was diagnosed with cobalt poisoning.
"All symptoms appeared within the past year before his admission to our centre. Searching for the cause combining these symptoms-and remembering an episode of the TV series "House" which we used for teaching medical students (series seven/episode 11)1-we suspected cobalt intoxication as the most likely reason," Schaefer and his colleagues wrote in "Cobalt intoxication diagnosed with the help of Dr House", published in the Lancet, Feb. 8.
"This was an easy diagnosis once you know it - like from Dr. House," said Schaefer, who like Dr. Gregory House, also specializes in diagnosing rare and unusual illnesses. "If you saw this one, and if you kept in your mind this terrible disease, then you don't forget it."
The patient had his metal hip replaced with a new ceramic one and soon thereafter, experienced improved health condition. His cobalt level plunged, his fever and esophagus problems went away and his heart function improved, albeit his hearing and eyesight didn't get better.