Swallowed pen retrieved 25 years later; and it still works
CT scan demonstrating a linear foreign body in the stomach of a 76-year-old woman.
Published Monday, December 19, 2011 10:34PM EST
Talk about redefining "writer's block."
A 76-year-old woman in Britain is the subject of a fascinating case report in the British Medical Journal, after doctors extracted an entire pen from her stomach that had been swallowed 25 years before.
It's hard to decide what's craziest about the incident: the fact that the woman had a pen inside her for 25 years and lived to tell the tale, or the fact that when the stomach-acid-bathed writing instrument was pulled out, it still worked.
The discovery was made almost by fluke. The woman had been complaining of weight loss and diarrhea. A few tests were run and doctors determined she had severe diverticulosis, a common condition in which small pouches bulge out of the colon.
But they also found something else. After doing a CT scan, they spotted something long and straight much higher up in her digestive tract: the pen inside her stomach
Although the woman's intestinal problems had nothing to do with the pen, doctors decided to remove it anyway.
When they pulled it out, it didn't look great. But amazingly, the pen "was still in working order," the doctors write in their report. They used the pen to write the word "Hello," and then photographed it for their report.
And the woman's stomach? It was remarkably unscathed.
So why didn't this woman remember swallowing a pen? In fact she did, but no one had believed her.
The woman says she remembers standing on a set of stairs, using a hand mirror and the felt-tip pen to investigate a lump on her tonsil. (The term the doctors use in the report is "interrogate": "she was interrogating a spot on her tonsil.")
Why she was standing on the stairs while doing this isn't clear; perhaps the light was better there. In any case, the woman managed to slip and fall and swallow the pen whole. She told her husband and family doctor, but when abdominal X-rays were performed, there was no sign of the pen.
"Her husband and general practitioner dismissed her story," the report says.
The woman is said to be feeling much better after the pen extraction. And her doctors say her case is a good reminder that X-rays aren't the best way to look for lost pens.
"This case highlights that plain abdominal x-rays may not identify ingested plastic objects and occasionally it may be worth believing the patient's account however unlikely it may be," the report concludes.