May 22, 2012

TV Show HOUSE Exploring ENT Problems

I must clarify that I never really like TV show House for reasons explained here... but patients who love watching House have alerted me to some episodes this season that touched on ENT problems.

So... here goes...

Episode 21 (Season 8): Holding On
Diagnosis: Persistent Stapedial Artery

19 years old cheerleader was admitted after suffering from dizziness, massive nosebleed, and auditory hallucinations. It was ultimately determined that he was suffering from a persistent stapedial artery.

This artery is a congenital defect of the inner ear that should have obliterated during fetal development. However, if persistent, is typically found going through the stapes bone of the middle ear.

It CAN cause symptoms of dizziness as the pulsations of the artery can transmit through the stapes footplate and into the vestibule via the oval window. It can also cause auditory hallucinations by pressing against the nearby temporal lobe as well as a nosebleed. If the artery ruptures, it can only drain through the eustachian tube and out the nose.

However, if the patient presented to the ER with nosebleed and dizziness, a complete physical exam would have been performed and a clearly seen blood-filled middle ear cavity (hemotympanum) would have been seen that even a medical student would have found. That would have indicated an ear issue causing both the dizziness and nosebleed. Also, the patient would have complained of hearing loss with blood in the ear.

From that point, the differential diagnosis is actually quite small and would have been obtained relatively easily.

Diagnosis: Amoebic Meningitis

35 years old man admitted to House’s service after he is discovered crying blood. He later develops light sensitivity, vomiting, and a stiff neck.

After suspecting meningitis, it was discovered that he was using a Neti Pot and was using tap water rather than distilled or sterilized water in order to perform saline flushes. The water happened to contain an amoeba (likely Naegleria fowleri) which caused an amoebic infection of the brain.  The culprit organism Naegleria fowleri causes a life-threatening encephalitis after passing thru the nose and up into the brain where the organism eats neurons for food.

Such brain infections have been recently reported in the news and can be prevented by using water that is boiled, distilled, or filtered.

Fortunately, it is rare.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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