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'House' watching doctor uses show to save dying man's life

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Saving a patient's life by watching "House" or some other medical drama series on television sounds like something too scripted to be true -- like some clever plot for a television show. But in one German man's case, it turned out to be exactly that -- true. He was saved from death because a doctor happened to be a great fan of Dr. Gregory House and realized the problem with a patient just might be like something he had seen on "House, M. D."

For many, watching actor Hugh Laurie as a somewhat sociopathic doctor whose genius was in analyzing rare and strange medical conditions was great entertainment. As the Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Feb. 7, Dr. Juergen Schaefer diagnosed a 55-year-old man whose condition had perplexed many other doctors. And he did it, he said, in five minutes simply by recalling one particular episode of the Fox hit television drama "House" where like symptoms had presented on the show.

Schaefer said the man's symptoms were a perfect match with a patient, played by the legendary Candice Bergen, on an episode in which the fictional Dr. House identified cobalt poisoning as the cause.

The patient's other doctors had diagnosed a condition requiring a heart transplant.

Recounting the case in the medical journal Lancet (posted Friday), Schaeffer and his colleagues tested the man's cobalt levels after hearing that the patient had complained that his problems began after his previous operation, one where he had a broken ceramic hip replaced. Small fragments of the ceramic hip had been left after the operation and were grinding into the metal replacement, which, in turn, leaked cobalt and chromium into the patient's bloodstream.

After the hip was replaced once more, the patient's heart got better and his other symptoms improved.

But Schaeffer's out-of-the-box diagnosis was some fortuitous recall exercise. No, the good doctor, according to Time magazine, actually teaches medical students using "House" to explain rare diseases. The particular episode regarding cobalt poisoning was also fresh in his memory. And Schaeffer literally wrote the book on how to apply "House" to real medical cases, penning Housemedizin: Die Diagnosen von "Dr. House.”

"House" ran for eight seasons on Fox Television (2004-2012) and was the most-watched television show in the world in 2008, according to AFP.

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