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After 25 Years In Woman’s Stomach, A Pen Still Writes

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
December 21, 2011

You might have heard about the case on Wednesday’s Morning Edition.

Twenty-five years ago, a British woman who saw a spot on a tonsil tried to get a better look using a pen and a mirror. She slipped and the pen went down her throat.

Neither the woman’s husband nor her doctor believed her. X-rays at the time didn’t detect the pen. Now, “they are eating their words,” as NPR’s Linda Wertheimer put it.

A CT scan shows she was right. And the woman, 76, had the felt-tip pen removed. Even after all these years without trouble, doctors figured there was a risk the pen could tear a hole in her stomach. Remarkably, the pen still worked.

Take a look for yourself at the scan showing the pen in her stomach. And the acid test, so to speak, “Hello,” written with the retrieved pen afterward.

The images come courtesy of BMJ Case Reports, a peer-reviewed clearinghouse for quirky and significant cases, that has become one of our favorite reads. The journal kindly gave us permission to reproduce the images.

For more, see the case report: “An incidental finding of a gastric foreign body 25 years after ingestion.”

Beyond being a bit bizarre, the case does have a few lessons for clinicians, the reporting doctors write: “plain abdominal X-rays may not identify ingested plastic objects and occasionally it may be worth believing the patient’s account however unlikely it may be.” [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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