Boy, toddler swallow magnetic balls, causing their intestines to rupture

Since the magnets were stuck together in the body, an operation was needed to remove them and fix the holes in the intestine.

August 18, 2014 16:50
1 minute read.

Ball bearings removed from toddler and X-rays showing their movement together.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Two children, aged 22 months and 12 years, swallowed magnetic ball bearings from a popular game and had to be treated at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center in the past few days.

The metal balls ruptured the toddler’s intestines, but both children were saved from harm.

The toddler reached Rambam a few days ago after his parents noticed that he had swallowed the magnets by mistake. X-rays showed they were located in two different sections of the intestine but came together because of the magnetic attraction. This movement caused them to put pressure on the intestine and cause gangrene and holes in the tissue.

Prof. Ron Shaul, head of pediatric gastroenterology, said in such cases, doctors prefer the foreign objects be eliminated from the body naturally.

But in this case, when they were held together, there was no way they would get out by themselves. Thus, an operation was needed to remove them and fix the holes in the intestine.

A surgical team headed by Dr. Ran Steinberg performed the surgery. The child is now under supervision in pediatric intensive care.

“If [the magnets] remained there, [they] could have caused an infection that would have spread throughout the stomach and intestinal lining,” he said.

On Sunday, the 12-year-old arrived, also after swallowing the magnetic ball bearings.

They were in one bunch, and doctors said they thought they would be eliminated naturally.

The doctors are still waiting for a bowel movement to make sure they are out.

“We encounter so many cases of swallowing of foreign objects,” said Prof. Itai Shavit, head of the pediatric emergency department. “One can never know how a case ends. Every case teaches us how such incidents can be prevented and lives even be saved if parents and caregivers kept a more careful eye on their children.”

Rambam doctors said parents must not allow young children to play with magnets because they put them into their mouths and swallow them. Check to make sure that all game parts are returned to their containers, with none missing.

In addition, small magnets to hold notes should also not be put on refrigerator doors so children cannot reach them.

If they are swallowed, take the child immediately to the nearest hospital emergency room, they advised.

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