First, it felt like a bad stomach cramp, but then the ache turned into repeated vomiting. Gradually the symptoms worsened. What had gone wrong with Tristin Beck?

Searching for an explanation, the doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital ran test after test but after coming up short each time, they resorted to an hour-long surgery to explore Beck's condition more closely.

At last they found their answer: a tiny piece of grill brush wire, about the size of a short strand of hair, stuck inside Beck's small intestine. During a barbecue nearly two weeks ago, Beck accidentally ate the strand of wire.

"Somehow one of the tiny little hairlike wires got stuck in one of the grills in the barbecue and in a one-in-a-million chance it got stuck in a piece of chicken that I ate and made it most of the way through my body but then got stuck in my intestines and basically started stabbing me from the inside out," Beck told The Seattle Times from his hospital bed.

Beck, who is expected to make a full recovery, is the latest victim of a little-known safety hazard.

Within an 18-month period, Rhode Island Hospital physicians have identified six cases of accidental ingestion of wire grill brush bristles that required endoscopic or surgical removal. In a paper published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, David Grand, M.D., a radiologist in the diagnostic imaging department at Rhode Island Hospital, calls attention to this potential danger.

"Although foreign body ingestion is not a rare complaint in an emergency department, it is striking that in only 18 months we identified six separate episodes of wire bristle ingestion after eating grilled meat. The public should be aware of this potential danger," said Grand.

Grand explained that the six patients were taken to the emergency department within 24 hours of ingesting grilled meat. Their symptoms were odynophagia (painful swallowing in the mouth or esophagus) or abdominal pain. A careful history in all cases revealed that the patients had consumed meat cooked on a grill that had been cleaned with a wire brush immediately prior to cooking.

Of the patients, three showed odynophagia as a primary symptom. Two underwent radiography of the neck, which revealed a metallic foreign body (the bristles), while one patient had a computed tomography (CT) scan that identified and localized the bristles within the neck. In all three patients the wires were identified and removed.

The remaining three patients, who struggled with abdominal pain, underwent CT scans. In two patients, the wire perforated the small intestine and in the third, the wire perforated through the stomach and into the liver, and was surrounded by a large hepatic abscess. Surgery was performed in all three patients.

"In patients presenting with odynophagia, plain radiography may identify the wire bristle; however, CT is helpful for anatomic localization," Grand explained. "For patients presenting with abdominal pain, CT is recommended and oral contrast should not be used as it can obscure the foreign body, in this case, wire bristles." (Grand discussed his study in the YouTube video below.)

As for Tristin Beck, he has decided to find a new way to clean the grill and, despite all he's been through, he says he will someday barbecue again. "But not for a while," he commented.