Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't Swallow Your Gum!

A 33 year old female came in with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. This is a VERY common complaint. Hard to even get interested any more. This patient, though, seemed very uncomfortable. Her stomach was very rigid. She had the picture of what we call an acute abdomen....meaning something might have perforated inside needing emergent surgery. She had no risk factors for this, though, so it was still a long shot.

Sure enough, xrays showed and intestinal obstruction requiring surgery. The surgeons were baffled as well b/c we could not come up for a reason why should would have this. Maybe it was cancer?? Nope. A couple of hours later the surgeons came down to tell me what they found.....a huge glob of gum completely obstructing the intestines. Since ice and peanut butter wouldn't get the gum out, they had to resect that part of her intestines and make a temporary colostomy (poop bag).

They don't teach you this in med school. I always figured it was a myth. Guess not.

ER Doc


JustaMom said...

Can this really be true? My kids always swallow their gum. I just figured it would pass out with everything else. Maybe she ate a huge piece of gum or the surgeons were mistaken about what it really was...

Trust us....we're doctors said... was a huge wad of gum. my good friend was the pathologist who had to "gross" in the specimen. It likely was tons of pieces of gum that had wadded together over YEARS

Anonymous said...

I had this happen to me when I was a freshman in high school. I could by big packs of big red gum super cheap from my dads store. I went through like 6 packs in one week (swallowing all of them) By friday I was having severe abdominal pain. My mother, thinking appendicitis, took me to the ER. They did xrays and the doc took a look at them and took my mom out of the room. I was thinking the worst. Well my mom came back in and threw my clothes at me saying "your full of shit" I told her NO it really hurts and she stated No I was really full of shit. The doc came back in and questioned me on my diet and pointed out some oddities on my Xray....I admitted my gum addiction and everyone thought it was hilarious....except my mom (who was paying the bill)
He gave me some laxitive that tasted like lemonade and told me to drink half the bottle. He said thing should move in the next 8 hours but if by some chance they did not then to drink the rest. If things continued not move I was going to have to have surgery... eek!
I ended up having to drink the whole bottle, it took 24 hours to work but when it did it felt like an earthquake in my belly. It was like peeing out my backside with some plops every few seconds....the plops were pink wads of gum. Most embarrassing story from my teen years!

Sarah said...


I don't think any of this is true. I don't think that ER Doc is actually a resident, either. Just a hunch, but the bad spelling/grammar, and the way it's written doesn't sound like an actual doctor. I'm a third year ER resident in a county-type hospital in a large urban area and I've heard urban legends of some of the stories these guys are writing about, but I've definitely never seen so much sex-related stuff (the PICU bed sex, the Foley lady, the cock ring, the inevitable rectal foreign body that has to go to the OR story, etc.) in actual day-to-day practice. All this wild stuff would have to happen within a total of about ten months actually spent in the ER for someone in April of their second year of residency and that doesn't seem like a realistic concentration of cases that make for good story telling. Also, I've personally never met any pathologists at our hospital and I don't know how an ER doc would go about doing that. It seems a little too convenient.

I wouldn't worry about your kids swallowing gum unless they have some kind of psychiatric condition and are swallowing literally pounds of the stuff.

Anonymous said...

It's a big hospital, more stuff happens I guess. You sound a little jealous. Get ambitious-writeyour own boring blog then!