In what may be a medical first, a 30-year old woman recently had a piece of her orthodontic braces removed from her small bowel nearly 10 years after the same braces were removed from her teeth. The woman has now recovered, though she has no memory of swallowing the wire piece in the first place. 

According to a case study, now published online in the BMJ, a 30-year old woman went to the hospital complaining of abdominal pain. Doctors discovered that a small piece of dental wire had pierced her small bowel. The case is novel because of how long it took the dental wire to cause problems - a whole decade. Doctors should consider the possibility a patient has swallowed foreign objects in the case of abdominal pain when the patient has no other medical or surgical history, the case study advises.

Read: Study Finds Habitual Offenders In Swallowing Foreign Objects

The wire was safely removed in surgery, and the woman recovered well with no additional complications. According to a press release on the case, the patient was not aware of the cause of her abdominal pain and had no memory of accidentally swallowing the dental wire.

The bowel piercing caused a condition known as volvulus, which is characterized by the intestines twisting around themselves. The case study explained that the wire had penetrated through her small bowel and the small bowel mesentery, forming a knot in the bowel. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, volvulus is usually caused by a birth defect, but can also occur in pregnant women or the elderly who strain their bowels.

Accidentally swallowing foreign objects is more common than you might know; thankfully, in most cases, the incidents cause little damage. For example, in 2008, a student at Bournemouth University in England accidentally swallowed his house keys while out drinking, The Daily Mail reported. The 18-year-old student was having a good time at a party and swallowed the keys because he wanted to prevent his friends from taking him home early. The next morning, the student woke up on his friend's couch with no memory of the incident the night before. Thankfully, this accident did not require any surgery, and the young student passed the keys naturally.

Other situations are more dangerous. For example, swallowing batteries can quickly become a life-threatening situation, particularly for children. According to Medical News Today, if the batteries become lodged in the throat, they can cause severe tissue damage in just two hours, in some cases even forming a hole in the windpipe or paralysis of the vocal cords.

Chew slowly, swallow with care, and if you experience unexpected abdominal pain for no apparent reason, you might consider heading to the doctor for a stomach X-ray.

See Also:

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