• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

German doctors save man thanks to 'House'

AFP · 7 Feb 2014, 10:20

Published: 07 Feb 2014 10:20 GMT+01:00

For a year, the patient suffered from a range of worsening symptoms that left doctors stumped.

His heart started failing, his sight and hearing deteriorated, he suffered from acid reflux, swollen lymph nodes and an inexplicable fever. The outlook was grim.
   
Only Dr Gregory House, TV's misfit medical genius, could solve the mystery: the cause was an eroded prosthetic hip.
 
The Lancet reported on Friday that the patient had been referred to Marburg's Centre for Undiagnosed Diseases in May 2012.
   
Poring over his medical history, the team found a past that was uneventful - apart from a double hip replacement.
   
They pounced on this detail. Recalling an episode from the seventh season of "House", the team began to suspect cobalt poisoning, probably from a worn hip implant.
   
Scans and blood tests confirmed the suspicion and the patient soon had his metal prosthesis replaced by a ceramic one.
   
"Shortly after the hip replacement, the patient's plasma (blood) cobalt and chromium concentrations decreased and the patient stabilized and recovered slightly," the case report said.
   
By July last year, 14 months after the operation, his heart function improved to 40 percent, the fever was gone and so was the acid reflux. The patient had by then received a defibrillator to aid his damaged heart.
   
His hearing and vision, unfortunately, recovered only slightly, said the report.
 
Not only entertaining, also life-saving
 
"It was helpful for me that I was aware about the cobalt problems thanks to Dr House," team leader Jürgen Schäfer told AFP, while stressing that other
diagnostic tools were brought into play as well.
   
"All this demonstrates nicely that well-performed entertainment is not only able to entertain and educate, but also to save lives."
   
"House" is the story of a grumpy and cynical diagnostician who specializes in solving medical mysteries that other doctors cannot crack.
   
He is based on Sherlock Holmes, whose character was in turn inspired by real-life 19th century Scottish doctor Joseph Bell who, like House, used deductive reasoning as a diagnostic tool.
   
Schäfer said he was a fan of the TV show and had been using episodes from the series, based on real cases, as part of his lectures for several years now, "to attract my students' attention for rare or unusual diseases".
   
He has been dubbed the "German Dr House" by colleagues, students and the media.
   
Schäfer said his centre has treated at least five other patients with cobalt poisoning, though with less severe symptoms.
   
Story continues below…
"There must be more awareness to the potential side effects of metal implants in humans," he said.
   
The case report added that cobalt poisoning in hip replacement patients was "an increasingly recognized and life-threatening problem".
   
Erosion of a replacement hip, often the result of a botched operation or dodgy prosthesis, can release toxic metals into the blood stream.
   
Cases of heart failure as a result of cobalt poisoning are rare and have in the past mainly been observed in steel workers and heavy consumers of a specific Quebec beer that was found in the 1960s to have had cobalt sulfate added for foam stability.
 

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Nearly 9,000 refugee children reported missing: report
Refugee children in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

German media reported on Monday that the number of refugee children reported as missing has doubled to reach nearly 9,000.

Vice-Chancellor: TTIP trade deal is dead
Photo: DPA

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that negotiations on a massive trade deal between the European Union and the United States were effectively dead in the water.

EU nations must not refuse Muslim migrants: Merkel
Photo: DPA

The refusal of some EU countries to accept Muslim refugees is "unacceptable", Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday as Germany called for quotas to divide the influx throughout the bloc.

Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
8,441
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd