A woman recently arrived at an Atlanta hospital with an unusual problem.

According to Aida Venado, MD, and Sarah Prebil, MD, from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, a 30-year unidentified woman was taken to the emergency room after swallowing a knife. The woman had suffered from bulimia in the past and swallowed the knife to prove she had no gag reflex.

According to the researchers, she required medical attention when "she unexpectedly laughed, the knife migrated into her esophagus, causing chest discomfort and hematemesis [vomiting blood]."

Luckily, after careful examination the knife was found lodged between the esophagus and stomach without any signs of damage to the lung, stomach or esophagus. The examination revealed no air between the lungs, leakage or signs of a collapsed lung.

After the trip to the emergency room, the woman resumed eating without any further problems. According to researchers, "her husband later disclosed that 4 years earlier she had swallowed a knife that required surgical removal with exploratory laparotomy. Consultation with a psychiatrist was recommended, and the patient was later transferred to an inpatient psychiatric unit."

Hopefully, the poor woman receives the psychiatric care her physicians, psychiatrist, family, she needs. While it may be easy to laugh at her situation, there is nothing funny about mental illness.

According to the case study it appeared that she had overcome her eating problems (it does say that she was eating, after all, and made no indication of any unusual activity afterwards), it does serve as a reminder that the mental issues that contribute to eating disorders do not disappear altogether when people stop their disordered eating.

This case study should also be a lesson to all of us: do not laugh when you stick things in your mouth, lest you end up with a knife lodged in your stomach. Your esophagus and stomach may not be so lucky.

Her case study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.