Gulp! Swallowed Objects Revealed by X Rays

Spoons, rubber duckies, keys and engagement rings. If it’s small enough to swallow, you can bet that someone, somewhere, has swallowed it.

Above: An X ray reveals a metal spoon that has been swallowed by the patient.

Pica Chew

Pica is a medical disorder which compels a person to eat non-nutritive objects or substances. Pica is often a side-effect of pregnancy, when a woman’s body needs more vitamins and minerals. A pregnant woman will sometimes crave sand, ash or wood, “foods” that would normally not interest them. This craving is due to the body’s need for nutrients that are found in these substances.

Pica has also been attributed to mental illness. Pica is often only part of a more obvious disorder, and has often been linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Mental health patients will sometimes swallow any item that is small enough to fit into their mouth, as a trip to the hospital to have the object removed means a change of scene for the patient. The image below shows a college created by a mental health patient suffering from Pica, using the foreign objects that the patient had swallowed.

X Rays of Swallowed Objects

Non-food items can be swallowed accidentally, as a prank or on purpose. However the object is swallowed, one fact remains clear - only an X ray can reveal how the item is lodged within the body.

Prisoners are prone to swallowing foreign objects, though these acts of swallowing foreign objects are not often related to mental illness. Leaving the prison grounds for a hospital visit means either a break from prison life or a chance to escape.

X Rays of Objects Swallowed by Animals

Humans are not the only ones who swallow foreign objects. Dogs, cats and snakes are known to gobble up a variety of things. Dogs often swallow foreign objects, though these are usually items such as sand, small stones and twigs that pass naturally through the animal’s body. The images below, however, show X rays of dogs who have managed to swallow, between them, a rubber ducky, a toy cat, a spoon, a plush toy dog, and a Christmas decoration.

Man-made objects that can be electrically warmed are a hazard for snakes that swallow their food whole. A warm object can easily be mistaken for a meal, as with this python, which swallowed an entire electric blanket, and a pine snake below, who swallowed two light bulbs.

Drinking Objects

Chris Foster, a student at Bournemouth University, had an alcohol-induced moment of genius. In an attempt to prevent his friends from taking him home after a night of partying, Foster ingeniously hid his room key. By swallowing it.

A Marriage Proposal X Ray

Simon Hooper wanted to propose to his girlfriend and so he went shopping for an engagement ring. Seeing a ring that he liked, Hooper waited until the shop assistant was distracted before swallowing the ring. Authorities X rayed Hooper’s stomach and spotted the ring, which Hooper claimed was a piece of tinfoil that he had swallowed by accident. Police had no option but to hold Hooper until nature had run its course, at which time the diamond ring was retrieved.

Swallowed in Safety

A woman swallowed an open safety pin, which then became lodged in her esophagus. The X ray image below reveals how the woman was unable to tilt her head forward without further damaging her throat.

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