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Woman Lives With Plastic Pill Packaging Lodged in Her Throat for 17 Days

A woman in Northern Ireland lived with a plastic painkiller packet stuck in her throat for 17 days, after unknowingly swallowing it in the middle of the night.

The 40-something woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, reportedly swallowed a Tramadol pill in the middle of the night, without first taking it out of its plastic packaging. The morning after the incident, she woke up with a foreign body sensation in her throat, and went straight to the hospital where she complained of discomfort and difficulty swallowing. However, the ear, nose and throat doctor at the hospital found that she was tolerating fluids, had no difficulties breathing and could mobilize her neck without feeling any pain.

Photo: F1Digitals/Pixabay

A chest x-ray showed an abrasion in her throat, which had most likely been caused by the sharp edges of the pill packet, but no foreign object. The woman was told that everything looked fine and to return if she didn’t notice any improvement in the next few days.

The woman’s symptoms didn’t go away, so three days later she went back to the hospital. She spent two nights there and was treated with steroids and painkillers until her symptoms improved. However, five days later, she returned and complained about the same symptoms as before. This time, the medical team performed a special X-ray exam that focuses on the back of the mouth and throat, but the results came out normal, so she was sent home.

It was only on her fourth visit to Craigavon Area Hospital in Co Armagh and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast that doctors finally identified the problem. Having exhausted all other options, they performed a more invasive procedure called oesophago-gastroduodenoscopy (OGD) scan, in which a lighted tube and camera are used to examine the upper intestinal tract.

Photo: British Medical Journal

Doctors were shocked to find the intact Tramadol packet lodged in the woman’s throat, but were able to remove it safely. According to the woman’s own account, it had been stuck there for 17 days.

“She had swallowed her Tramadol tablets whole in the original foil packet which was lodged in the upper oesophagus,” doctors wrote in a case report published by BMJ Case Reports. “She underwent rigid oesophagoscopy and removal of foreign body uneventfully [17 days after ingestion of her tablets] and she was discharged after a period of observation.”

The strangest thing about this case is that the patient had no idea that she had swallowed the pill along with the packaging, and was just as shocked as the doctors when she saw the pictures of it in her throat.

“I had no idea I swallowed this. It was a very frightening three weeks and I couldn’t believe [it] when I saw the picture,” the woman said.

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