Eating Mobile Phones Is Bad, But Highlights An Important Issue in Medicine

An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman were all using their mobile phones. And the Irishman swallowed his. No, really. As detailed in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reportsa 29-year-old Irish prisoner did indeed swallow his phone. This, it turns out, is pretty bad for you.

The anonymous inmate - doctor-patient confidentiality and all that - swallowed his mobile phone for some reason and spent over 4 hours vomiting profusely. He was then sent to Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin where an x-ray confirmed the offending item. Initially, the plan was for nature to take its course and have the phone pass through his systems. However, after 18 hours, the mobile phone had not moved at all, and so it was time for surgery.

Usual surgeries of this type involve inserting instruments down the esophagus to grasp the foreign object and pull it out. Obviously, the foreign object being a phone made this a less than ideal option. Nobody's quite sure how it even got down there in the first place, but pulling it back up was a recipe for damage. And so in the end they performed a procedure not unlike a caesarean section. They made a few incisions into the abdominal wall and pulled the phone out with a pair of forceps. Pleasant!

This incident has implications beyond just being a weird story, however. It highlights that current endoscopic retrieval devices are in need of improvement. And following the report, the appropriate bodies are looking to do just that. The ingestion of bulkier foreign objects - like a phone - needs to have systems in place so that they can be quickly and easily dealt with. After all, who knows what we might be swallowing in the future.