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Woman swallows toothpick, suffers severe blood poisoning

world Updated: Sep 11, 2012 16:32 IST
British Medical Journal

A woman developed severe blood poisoning and a liver abscess after inadvertently swallowing a toothpick.

A report published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) described the woman's condition but did not identify her.

The toothpick perforated her gullet and lodged in a lobe of her liver.

The woman was admitted to a hospital with generalised gut pain and fever, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and low blood pressure, BBC News reported.

An abdominal ultrasound scan revealed a liver abscess and the presence of a toothpick lodged in her liver. She subsequently developed breathing difficulties and an infection as a result of blood poisoning and had to be admitted to intensive care.

After treatment with antibiotics, she recovered and the toothpick was removed using keyhole surgery, after which all her symptoms cleared.

Swallowing foreign bodies is relatively common, particularly among children.

However, the subsequent development of a liver abscess was rare, the authors, from Bristol's Frenchay Hospital and Halifax University in Canada, wrote in the BMJ.

The condition has mostly been associated with inadvertently swallowing pins, nails, fish and chicken bones, rather than toothpicks.

"Toothpicks could be difficult to deal with effectively, because they don't show up on conventional X-rays and symptoms are often non-specific and remote," the authors wrote.