While doctors tend to see all sorts of things in the emergency department, turns out a person swallowing 55 cylindrical batteries is quite a rare scenario.
In fact a report published by the Irish Medical Journal last Thursday said "to the best of (their) knowledge", it's "the highest reported number of batteries ingested at a single point in time".
According to the journal article published on Thursday, a 66-year-old woman presented to St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland where an X-ray revealed the batteries were in her abdomen and colon.
Doctors initially took a "conservative" approach, meaning they observed the patient closely to see if and how many batteries would pass through naturally.
Over a one week period, she passed five AA batteries, but X-rays taken over the following three weeks revealed the remaining 50 batteries had failed to continue progressing through her body, and the woman began experiencing abdominal pain.
After realising that her distended stomach was hanging above the pubic bone due to the weight of the batteries, the surgeons decided to operate.
46 cylindrical batteries — both AA and AAA —were removed from the stomach through a small gastrostomy.
The last four located in her colon were ‘milked’ into the rectum, and removed using an anal retractor and long forceps.
The woman then successfully made an “uneventful recovery”.
Battery ingestion an increasing form of self-harm
The doctors pinned down the reason for the woman ingesting the batteries as a "deliberate act of self-harm".
"Ingestion of cylindrical batteries is a rare method of deliberate self-harm," the medical journal said.
"Reported cases suggest that severe and fatal battery ingestions are increasing and current paradigms may be inadequate."
Many of the reported cases are children swallowing button batteries.
The authors in the medical article noted that the act of ingesting batteries can cause severe issues, including “mucosal injury, perforation, [and] obstruction.”
“The potential of cylindrical batteries to result in acute surgical emergencies should not be underestimated,” it said.
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