After an 11-year-old boy arrived at the hospital with two small button magnets lodged up his nose, doctors were forced to find a creative way to use his problem as a solution.

The boy, who lives in Nicosia, Cyprus, placed one small magnetic disk in the shape of a watch battery up each nostril while he was at school last fall. The powerful neodymium magnets, one of the strongest magnets currently available, immediately attracted to each other on either side of the boy’s nasal septum, according to Dr. Kadir C. Kazikdas, a professor of Otorhinolaryngology at Nicosia’s Near East University who operated on the boy.

Approximately six hours after he inserted the magnets, the student was taken to the emergency room with severe pain, abundant nose bleeding and crusting inside of his nose, Dr. Kazikdas told in an email on Monday.

It wasn’t clear whether or not the magnets were still inside the boy’s nose upon initial examination by emergency room doctors because the boy was unco-operative and there was too much crusting inside of his nose.

It wasn’t until the patient was transferred to the hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat Department (ENT) and given a facial X-ray that doctors were able to see the magnets locked together in his nose, Dr. Kazikdas said. The boy was put under general anesthesia in the operating room while surgeons struggled to find a way to dislodge the magnets.

“I had gently tried to take them out using conventional surgical instruments but it was impossible!” Dr. Kazikdas explained.

The boy was at risk of septal perforation, in which a tiny hole develops inside the septum. He was also susceptible to the development of necrosis, or dying tissue, if the magnets weren’t taken out as soon as possible.

Eventually, the doctors came up with an ingenious way to remove the magnets – using other household magnets placed on the outside of the boy’s nose to counteract the pull of the internal magnets.

“We managed to remove the left-sided magnet easily, or it actually fell off from the place where it was stuck,” Dr. Kazikdas said. “It took seconds to remove the other magnet with this method.”

The boy suffered damage to his nasal cartilage and was given adhesion barriers over the traumatized tissue and silicon nose splints to further the healing process. He wore the splints for 10 days following the operation, Dr. Kazikdas and his colleague Dr. Mehmet A. Dirk reported in an account of the case published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

Six months later, the boy showed no signs of permanent damage and he was able to breathe comfortably through his nose during a follow-up examination, Dr. Kazikdas said.

It’s not entirely clear why the boy placed the magnets up his nose in the first place, but Dr. Kazikdas speculated that he may have wanted to experiment with them as a body accessory or jewelry.

“The use of magnets is growing in popularity as a fashion mania and unfortunately we have started to encounter such foreign bodies in our ENT practice, even in adults,” he said.

Dr. Kazikdas warned parents to keep magnets and button batteries out of reach of children because they have a surprisingly strong magnetic pull despite their seemingly small size. He also recommended speaking to older children about the potential hazards of magnets that may be used for jewelry or aesthetic purposes.