Doctors in Western Australia got quite a surprise when they operated on a patient and found a piece of dental wire that was ten years old in her small intestine.
According to Dr. Talia Shepherd, one of the attending physicians, a 30-year-old woman entered the emergency department of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, complaining of severe abdominal pain and cramps, CNN reports.
The doctors on the case initially thought the woman’s pain had something to do with her gallbladder, so she was given medication and released when the pain subsided. However, the patient returned two days later, once again due to severe pain.
When Shepherd and the other doctors did a CT scan, they found that an object had created several piercings in the woman’s small intestine. The small intestine absorbs the nutrients that the body needs, and allows non-absorbed food to pass on to the large intestine.
After looking at the CT scan, at first we thought it was a fish bone, because that’s a pretty common thing to find in the stomach. But when we went to ask the patient if she remembered swallowing anything, she had no recollection.
The intestine had been punctured in multiple places, allowing it to twist around on itself, resulting in a condition called volvulus. Compounded with the extreme pain the woman was experiencing, the doctors determined that an emergency surgery was necessary.
After the surgery, the doctors found that what had pierced her intestine was a piece of wire seven centimeters long, presumably from her braces. However, the woman had not worn any in the past 10 years.
Shepherd said the case was unusual because the wire sat in the patient’s bowels for 10 years without notice. “I think it was probably just sitting there in her stomach the whole time, and then when the small bowel was punctured, that’s when the pain started.”
Those who wear braces should not panic, Shepherd assures. “The chances of swallowing a wire from your braces is very low. There might be a higher chance if you’re sedated and undergo a dental procedure. But this is a very unusual case.”
The study was reported in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports.