Are 'House MD' Cases Based on Real Medical Cases? 5 Examples of Episodes Based on Real Life

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Anyone who watches "House MD" regularly starts to wonder, does this stuff really happen? The answer is yes. Many of the cases that have been presented in the shows long seven seasons are in fact based on real medical cases. Naturally, some creative license is taken to spice things up and in reality, many of the patients died as there is no real Gregory House to save them, but the ideas behind the medical portion of "House MD" are real. For example here are five "House MD" episodes and there real life story counter parts.

1. Season 1, Episode 8 "Poison"

In the "House MD" episode "Poison" there is a side story involving an 82-year-old woman named Georgia Adams (Shirley Knight) who is brought into the clinic by her son. He is concerned because his mother is having dramatic personality changes and is attracted to young men. Cuddy forces House into clinic duty and he treats her. She hits on House and even writes him some poetry which Wilson kindly shares with the staff. House later diagnosis Georgia which syphilis, which she contracted a decade earlier. The disease had lain dormant in her body and when it became active again it attacked her brain causing the personality changes. However, Georgia didn't wish the syphilis to be cured as she liked the changes. House explains the damage that had been done wouldn't be reversed and curing the disease wouldn't make her the way she was before.

A real doctor named Oliver Sacks had just such a case involving a 90-year-old woman, Natasha K. who had dominant syphilis become active again causing her sex drive to reignite. She indeed did not want the disease killed. Sacks told Natasha the same thing that House does in the episode. Oliver details the case in his book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales". The story recounted is nearly identical to that which the writers of House created.

2. Season 3, Episode 4 "Lines in the sand"

In this episode a 10-year-old boy with autism ends up in House's care. After several misdiagnosis House notices the boy keeps drawing the same thing. Shortly after he realizes that the boy, who has pica a condition that causes him to eat things that aren't food had consumed raccoon droppings from his sandbox and had roundworms in his eye. The boy is treated and goes home safely.

This story is nearly identical to a case that occurred in 2005. A 7-year-old boy with autism in Toronto baffled doctors before they found he had contracted raccoon round worms in his left eye by putting his hands in his mouth after playing in a sandbox. The real boy also recovered.

3. Season 4, Episode 1 "Mistaken identity"

A gas line explodes in a building and a young woman named Megan is badly injured. House goes on to treat her with her family standing by. In the end, however, House makes his diagnosis by discovering Megan is actually Liz another woman of a similar description who survived the explosion. Megan had actually died several days earlier.

This episode is based off a car accident that occurred in Michigan. Four college students and a staff member were injured in the crash, two of the students close in age where taken to the same hospital. One of the girls died, and one lived. The one that lived, Whitney was mistaken for the dead girl, Laura until she regained consciousness some 5-weeks later. While the diagnosis and means of injury were different, the case of mistaken identity was real.

4. Season 5, Episode 14 "The Greater Good"

In this episode an ex-cancer researcher, Dana (Judith Scott) faints during a cooking class and lands in House's care. At one point in the episode, the patient begins to itch so badly she itches straight to her brain. The patient had surgery 8 months prior and a cut was made in her uterus. Endometrial cells spilled into her blood stream and settled in various parts of her body. When she menstruated, the cells swelled and cause period like bleeding all over. The team removes the cells and she is cured.

Parts of this episode are stolen from the case of a retired Massachusetts doctor. Only referred to as "M." she suffered and itch so severe that she itched straight through her skull and into her brain in her sleep just like Dana in the episode. Both women also worked in the health care industry, but M.'s diagnosis was never made, only suggested to be nerve damage from previous medical conditions. Dana's diagnosis in the episode is also real. Endometriosis is the medical term for her diagnosis. It occurs in 5-10% of women; however, there are no documented cases that match Dana's. Endometriosis has been spread by uterine surgeries before but in all cases, it was present prior to the surgery and was not caused by the surgery.

5. Season 5, Episode 18 "Here Kitty"

In "Here Kitty" a nursing home worker pretends to be sick baffling other doctors and is sent to House. He turns out to be faking his symptoms, but fears he'll die because a cat named Debbi that lives at the nursing home slept next to him. The cat has a reputation for only curling up next to folks that are soon to die and this is the source of the patients fear who does by the way turn out to be sick.

In real life there really is a cat named Oscar living in a nursing home in Rhode Island. He has correctly predicted the deaths of 25 residents. The cat in "House MD" is female and grey, and Oscar is a male white and grey-brown tabby, but outside of that, the basis for the episode is real.

Sources:

Oliver Sacks, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales". PG 102 "Cupid's Disease"

http://books.google.com/books?id=nc2dE9swe0sC&lpg=PA102&ots=p1RsBNJUum&dq=oliver%20sacks%20cupid's%20disease&pg=PA102#v=onepage&q&f=false

Oscar the Death Cat

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/25/health/webmd/main3097899.shtml

Patient Itches into Brain

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/06/30/080630fa_fact_gawande?currentPage=1

Endometriosis in "House MD" episode: Was it Realistic?

http://www.politedissent.com/archives/2211

Mistaken Identity of Crash Victims

http://www.wthr.com/story/4970548/crash-victims-identities-mixed-up?ClientType=Printable&redirected=true

Toronto Boy with Round Worms

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2807255/

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