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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 20 December, 2014

Gregory House MD is so amazing he’s even saved a real-life patient

A German patient suffering from severe heart failure had baffled doctors until they caught an episode…

Hugh Laurie AKA Gregory House MD.
Hugh Laurie AKA Gregory House MD.
Image: ABACAUSA.COM/Press Association Images

EVER WATCH ER or House and think you could diagnose fatal diseases off the back of a binge-watching session? Well it mightn’t be as ludicrous as you might think.

The Lancet journal reports that a German clinic diagnosed a potentially fatal problem in a patient with severe heart failure after his symptoms mirrored those from a patient in the TV series House.

The patient was referred to Marburg University clinic in Germany where medical examinations ruled out coronary artery disease, a common cause of heart failure.

Medics working on the case however noticed “some striking similarities” between the patient’s symptoms and those of a fictional patient ultimately diagnosed by lead character Gregory House MD as cobalt poisoning caused by debris from a metal hip replacement.

Medical history of the real-life patient showed that in November 2010, he had undergone a metal-on-plastic hip replacement to replace a broken ceramic-on-ceramic hip prosthesis.

Half a year later the patient suffered from various symptoms, such as thyroid problems, severe heartburn, fever of unknown origin, increasing deafness and loss of sight and finally severe heart failure.

For more than a year, and after numerous hospital visits, the true cause of all these symptoms remained unclear.

Finally, the patient was referred to Marburg where the doctors concluded that, just like Hugh Laurie’s fictional patient, their patient was suffering from Cobalt poisoning.

Dr. Juergen R. Schaefer runs the Centre for Undiagnosed Diseases in Marburg  and has been described as ‘the German Dr House’.

He uses the House TV series to teach medical students to diagnose rare diseases and as a result of this case has begun a lecture entitled “Dr. House revisited – or: would we have saved the patient in Marburg as well?’.

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