The New England Journal of Medicine‘s series “Images in Clinical Medicine” is rarely less than fascinating. A couple weeks ago it showcased tomograms of an “otogenic pneumocephalus,” which is medical slang for a bubble of air that has leaked in someone’s skull through a tiny fissure in the ear. The accompanying text says the patient complained that she was hearing and seeing things, as well as having trouble with language. I should say so: The bubble looks about the size of a golf ball, and one imagines that it would really interfere with the function of the rest of the brain. Then again, our intuitions about how catastrophic brain modifications affect us are often wrong.
Tomorrow’s installment is repulsive but worth a look. It’s a video of the colonoscopy of an old Korean woman who had painful rumblings in her gut. The culprit is twenty centimeters long, spirited, and requires a snare to remove. Consider, as you view this, that some estimates have a quarter of the world’s population infested with these things. Knowing the rate of infestation and seeing the video has a strange comforting effect. The images of the air-bubble patient (who, like the Korean, made a full recovery) do too. It’s nice to know the body can take many kinds of shock, and many kinds of unwanted guest, and get along just fine.