EXCLUSIVE: Bit off more than he could chew: Five-year-old boy who swallowed FORTY pieces of gum has emergency operation to unblock his stomach
There is a good reason moms have always warned us not to swallow gum because it could stay inside our bodies ‘forever’.
A boy in Ohio swallowed almost 40 pieces of the stuff and had to have an emergency operation highlights this point.
The child began suffering cramps and diarrhea when the gum clumped together in his stomach and began to obstruct his digestive system. The emergency operation involved pulling the clump of gum back out through his throat.
He suffered no long-term effects, but doctors said he was lucky that the gum had not gone on to block his intestine which can be fatal because it may lead to the walls of the bowels being pierced and leaking their contents into the body.
The youngster, who has not been named, had a large mass of gum — medically termed a gum bezoar — lodged in his stomach (pictured)
Doctors removed it by placing a metal tube down his throat and gradually scooping pieces back up through the mouth
The doctors, led by Dr Chizite Iheonunekwu at the Cleveland Clinic, revealed the case in the medical publication JEM Reports.
They said children who present at hospital with stomach pain and diarrhea should be checked for ‘bezoars’, the name for swallowed foreign material.
On the day of the accident, the patient’s mother said the child had eaten an entire tub of sugar-free chewing gum.
She immediately called the local poison center, which advised her to go to the emergency room if her son had stomach problems.
Hours later he developed stomach pain and began suffering from diarrhea, prompting a trip to the ER.
Scans revealed the patient had a large mass — medically termed a bezoar — stuck in his stomach, taking up around 25 percent of the space.
After discussing options, doctors decided to remove it using multiple ‘passes’ of the esophagus or gullet.
This involved placing an esophagoscope, or hollow metal tube, down the throat.
Other implements like forceps are then put down the tube and used to pull off bits of the object to be removed.
These are then brought back up through the throat.
Doctors said the procedure took ‘multiple’ removals of gum.
They did not say whether the child was awake, although he was likely sedated for the procedure.
During this time, the youngster would have been asked to lie on his back with the tube then placed down his throat.
Doctors said the next day the boy complained of a sore throat due to the ‘number of passes’ needed to remove the gum.
He was given painkillers and discharged home.
The youngster has suffered no long-term ill effects.
Doctors advise people not to swallow chewing gum, although say it isn’t harmful if one piece is accidentally ingested.
They say it will generally move through the digestive system in tact before being removed in feces.
But Dr Elizabeth Rajan, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, said: ‘On very rare occasions, large amounts of swallowed gum combined with constipation have blocked intestines in children.
‘It’s for this reason that frequent swallowing of chewing gum should be discouraged, especially in children.’
The body cannot digest chewing gum because it is built out of synthetic polymers and latex, which don’t break down easily when ingested.
When someone swallows too much chewing gum it can clump together and form a mass that blocks the intestines.