A 72-year old UK man shocked doctors when it was discovered that his false teeth were lodged in his throat. This came after the man walked into the emergency room coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing and swallowing.
The man had undergone surgery to remove a harmless lump from the wall of his abdomen six days earlier, which is when it was deduced that he must have breathed them in while under the effects of general anesthesia.
It took several days to discover the man’s false teeth because the doctors thought the man had a respiratory infection based on results from a chest X-ray. They also thought that the man’s throat pain was as a result of having a tube down his throat during surgery. Efforts to treat these symptoms with prescribed antibiotics failed when the man returned two days later to the ER feeling worse. The pain in his throat made it impossible to swallow anything, including the medicine and he couldn’t breathe properly.
Upon suspicion that he had pneumonia, doctors sent him to an ear, nose and throat team for further testing which showed nothing. It was only when a thin metallic tube was inserted through the man’s nose to test further that doctors were surprised to see a metallic circular object covering his vocal cords. This turned out to be the man’s dentures, which he revealed had been lost during his surgery. He underwent emergency surgery to remove them and was released from the hospital six days later.
However, it was discovered that the false teeth had done a lot more damage than anticipated by tearing an artery in the neck and causing tissue damage, and the man needed another emergency surgery and several blood transfusions.
While the man is set to make a full recovery, this is not the first time that a patient has swallowed or inhaled false teeth during surgery. This case highlights the need to ask patients to remove their false teeth before surgery. Doctors should also ensure that they are documented before and after surgery to avoid such incidents.
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