December 21, 2011
Working Pen Removed From Woman’s Stomach After 25 Years
A pen that spent a quarter of a century in a woman's stomach before being removed by doctors was still in working condition, according to an incredible story published this week in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Case Reports.
According to Fox News and Edmonton Sun reports, the incident began when a 76-year-old woman was hospitalized for a stomach problem that caused weight loss and diarrhea.
She told doctors about the pen, which she said she swallowed accidentally some 25 years earlier while "interrogating a spot on her tonsil." Neither the doctors nor the woman's husband believed her, and initial X-rays showed nothing out of the ordinary.
Then, according to Claire Bates of the Daily Mail, doctors at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Foundation Trust, opted to take a CT scan of her abdomen. They discovered a "linear object" that turned out to be the cause of her intestinal inflammation -- and it was, in fact, a felt-tip pen.
The pen was "sitting in the lumen of the woman's stomach," Bates reported. "It hadn't caused her any gastric damage -- indeed the symptoms that had prompted the investigation in the first place had resolved themselves."
The doctors opted to try and remove the pen, as there was a slight risk that it could have perforated the woman's stomach lining, the Daily Mail report added. It was successfully removed under general anesthetic and, much to the medical team's surprise, was still functional despite being exposed to stomach acid for more than two decades.
In fact, the doctors managed to use it to write out the word "Hello," and then took a photograph of the pen and the message it wrote out, damaged plastic casing and all.
So how did it happen in the first place?
According to Cari Nierenberg of MSNBC.com's "The Body Odd" column, the woman "was standing on her stairs using an uncapped pen to poke a spot on her tonsils. She was also holding a hand mirror to guide the pen to the exact spot. Somehow, while doing this, she lost her balance and stumbled. The fall managed to push the pen down her throat. It glided down her gullet and found a home in her tummy."
Writing in BMJ Case Reports, the researchers, including Dr. Oliver Waters, the unnamed woman's gastroenterologist, says that the remarkable case "highlights that plain abdominal x-rays may not identify ingested plastic objects and occasionally it may be worth believing the patient´s account however unlikely it may be."
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