There has been a flurry of internet news over the bizarre case of a woman who had a pen removed from her stomach, 25 years after she swallowed it. Amazingly, the plastic pen still worked after over two decades lodged inside her.
The case has been described in the British Medical Journal Case Reports, which explains in detail how the 76-year-old woman was referred for urgent investigation after she developed sudden weight loss and diarrhoea. While performing a CT scan to look at her abdomen, doctors found the startling sight of the felt-tip pen, which they then surgically removed.
Apparently, years earlier the woman had been looking at her tonsils in the mirror but slipped and accidentally swallowed the pen. Both her husband and GP had dismissed her claim at the time as the pen failed to show up on an X-ray. This rather unique case report highlights that just because a patient’s account is unlikely, it does not mean that it is not true.
It is not advisable to examine your tonsils with a pen unless you prefer keeping it in your stomach rather than a pencil case.
The woman reported that she had been examining a spot on her tonsil with the pen when she accidentally slipped and swallowed the pen by mistake. She said that she had told her GP and husband, but her story had been dismissed after an abdominal examination at that time appeared normal.
It seems the pen had happily sat in her stomach for over two decades without causing any health problems, but may have eventually led to the diarrhoea and weight loss that caused her to go and see her doctor. Once discovered, the doctors decided to take the pen out despite it having been there for so long: they thought it best to be cautious as there has been at least one case report of a pen that had caused perforation to the intestines as it passed through.
The BMJ Case Reports journal has recently reported at least two other cases of people who have experienced medical problems after swallowing objects that have not shown up on X-ray. These cases highlight the need to perform additional CT scans if the patient can remember swallowing something that may have caused the problem.
These case reports highlight what it is possible to swallow, and also the importance of telling your doctor, if you have swallowed something accidentally.