Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reporter's Brain Lost In Story

Okay, so Eric sent me this link a little while ago. He was awed and amazed.

(Story at source)

In case they've removed the story, or you're too lazy to click on the link, or you just don't trust me not to Rick-roll you, the headline of the article is:

Pictured: The 2.5lb kidney stone the size of a coconut surgeons removed from a man's stomach

Like Eric, I, too, was awed and amazed on reading that headline, but for decidedly different reasons. I mean, for a kidney stone to get from the kidney (part of the urinary tract) into the stomach (part of the digestive tract), the guy would have had to pass the stone and then eat it. And if eating something the size of a coconut seems prohibitive, imagine trying to pee it out! This guy must have a johnson the size of... well, larger than a coconut in diameter. And a brain much smaller, since that would be a crazy thing to do.

Of course, if you read the article it points out that the kidney stone was removed from his abdomen, not his stomach -- an important distinction that we'll blame on the headline writer.

But a coconut-sized kidney stone is still newsworthy because it's almost impossible for a kidney stone (aka, a nephrolith if we're going to get all technical) to get that large. See, for a stone to grow in the kidney, the kidney has to be producing urine, a little of which keeps sedimenting on the small stone over time until the stone grows larger and larger. The problem is that eventually the stone reaches a size where it's blocking the outflow, leading to pressure build up inside the kidney, which kills off the kidney cells, leading to no further urine, causing the stone to stop growing. Because of this, the maximum size a kidney stone could ever grow is something less than the size of a kidney. So this guy must have had a well-grown pair of kidneys.

Except that they included an x-ray in the story, which clearly shows that the "kidney stone" is obviously not a kidney stone, but is instead a bladder stone. A big bladder stone is a story you bore all your friends with, but not really something to write an article about.

(Unless, of course, the bladder stone is in a California Desert Tortoise and someone who is leaving the next day and won't be involved with the surgery convinces you that lithotripsy via a prefemoral approach would be a much better idea than a plastrotomy. Sorry about that, Liz. But anyhow, that you can write a paper about.)

So, to recap, the "2.5lb kidney stone the size of a coconut surgeons removed from a man's stomach" was 1) not a kidney stone and 2) wasn't removed from a man's stomach.

Other than that I'm sure the article was totally factual.


A Free Man said...

I was going to say that was a pretty typical headline from a tabloid newspaper, but these days there isn't that much difference between a tabloid newspaper and a proper newspaper. Hence, the death of newspapers.

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

AFM: Since most headlines are written by a person unconnected with the story, I can (sort of) overlook the stupidity in the headline. But the complete lack of understanding of basic anatomy in what is essentially an article about a medical condition? It's killing me...

But yeah, I guess that's not the most reputable paper anyhow.