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A minor home repair landed one man in the emergency room – with a screw stuck in his lung! The man held the screw in his mouth for a moment to free his hands, only to aspirate it into his lung when he inhaled.
“That’s were our good friend Raj Dasgupta comes into the story,” explains ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. Pulmonary Specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta was on hand to treat the man when he arrived at the ER.
Dr. Dasgupta notes that the screw was very sharp – and it could do damage not just going in, but coming out. “And he was coughing up a storm in the ER,” he adds. The only solution was to paralyze the patient and insert a breathing tube, then use a bronchioscope to go down his airway and into his lung.
“Now here’s the trick!” says Dr. Dasgupta. The screw was too big to go out through the breathing tube. “So we had to take out the breathing tube, which he needed to breathe while holding on to the screw. When it comes back, we had to put the tube back in – because he’s still paralyzed!”
The good news, according to Dr. Dasgupta, is that patient was fine afterward, although “a little embarrassed!”
Dr. Stork notes that a swallowed object, although potentially dangerous, will usually pass through the digestive system and out of the body. But anything in the lungs has to be removed by a doctor. “And unintentionally choking is the fourth leading cause of death. Everyone forgets that,” Dr. Dasgupta adds.
The takeaway is simple: don’t put small foreign objects in your mouth – and keep them away from children! Kids’ airways are smaller than adults’, and it’s easier for them to asphyxiate. Repeated coughing spells after ingesting anything are a sign that it may have entered the lung, and it’s time for a trip to the ER.