We Call Them Toothpicks for a Good Reason

Teeth lodged in ears? Check!

Toothbrushes down the gullet? Check!

And now…a toothpick in the liver!


According to a summary of the BMJ Case Reports article, some months after having swallowed a toothpick, a 45 year old woman developed an abcess that doctors eventually traced to the foreign object that had made its way out of her GI tract and stuck in her left hepatic lobe.

Suffice it to say, this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often: less than 1% of the time someone swallows a foreign object. Unspurprisingly, it took doctors a while to figure out just what was going on.

Patients rarely remember ingesting an object, and often have no symptoms for some time. When they do seek medical attention, their symptoms are nonspecific, and foreign bodies don’t always show up on imaging tests.

In this case, it took exploratory surgery to reveal the cause of the problem, which put the patient in the ICU for several weeks with multiple organ failure, treated with antibiotic cocktails.

Weirdly, although ultrasound had apparently failed to reveal the toothpick, the authors state that ultrasound is one of “the best” tools for “detecting foreign bodies.” (CT scan is the other.)

Image by …-Wink-…, via Flickr

Published by The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry

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