A teenage boy who drank two cups of popular drink bubble tea was hospitalised after he failed to digest the starchy balls and they formed two hard lumps in his colon.
The solid objects known as faecaliths – or stones made of faeces – measured two and three centimetres in size, according to a report from last Thursday by the First Affiliated Hospital of Xinxiang Medical University, in Henan Province in Central China.
Paediatric surgeon Zhang Haiyang, who treated the boy at the end of last year, said the boy’s bowel obstruction was more than likely caused by his love for bubble tea.
The drink, which originated in Taiwan, is also known as pearl milk tea or boba.
It typically contains dozens of starchy tapioca balls, which are notoriously hard to digest.
“Around 3am while I was on call, a 13-year-old boy was brought in with sudden abdominal pain,” Doctor Zhang recalled.
“X-rays pointed to bowel obstruction.”
The teen was kept under observation overnight and an operation was scheduled the following day when his condition failed to improve.
“While inspecting his intestines, we discovered two solid objects, one larger and one smaller,” Dr Zhang said.
“These two objects were causing his obstruction.”
According to the hospital, as the objects appeared relatively soft and could be crushed, surgeons opted against cutting the objects out of the boy’s colon.
“About two or three days after the surgery, he was able to pass them out with his stool,” the doctor said.
“While gathering further medical history, the young patient said he had had a cup of bubble tea about a week before his symptoms began.
“He didn’t chew on the bubbles and swallowed them whole.
“He had another cup about three to four days after that, and on both occasions he didn’t chew and only swallowed.
“It’s therefore very likely that the tapioca pearls stuck together, causing his bowel obstruction.”
The teenager suffered no long-term effects from the ordeal.
In June 2019, a 14-year-old girl from Zhejiang Province in East China was found with undigested tapioca balls occupying her stomach and intestines.
They were also the result of her favourite bubble tea drink and she was constipated for five days.
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