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Magnets put children and teens at risk

pte20211210001 Medicine / Wellness, Culture / Lifestyle

Medical professionals in London warn of operations to be avoided after accidental ingestion

Wooden train with magnetic compasses (Photo: spowell,

Wooden train with magnetic compasses (Photo: spowell,

LONDON (pte001/10.12.2021/6:00) – Young children should not be given toys with small magnets, warns Foundation for Pediatric Surgery who has been trying for 37 years to relieve children of their fear of surgery. If the magnet is poorly attached and falls off, youngsters tend to swallow it. In many cases, an operation is scheduled to remove the foreign body. In the past five years, the number of cases has multiplied fivefold.

Often complications

Himanshu Thakkar, Consultant Pediatric Surgeon at Evelina London Children’s Hospital : “This year alone, Evelina London has treated 15 children who swallowed magnets, seven of whom have had surgery.” Some did not go well after that. Surveys in four major hospitals in southeast England showed that between 2016 and 2020, around 250 children were admitted after ingesting foreign objects. In 37 percent of the cases they were coins, 21 percent were magnets and 17 percent were button cells.

Many of the children underwent surgery, and in half of the cases there were complications, such as a perforation of the intestine that led to infection. 42 percent of children who swallowed magnets had to undergo surgery, but only 2 percent of those who swallowed button cells. In some cases, keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) has been sufficient, but in many cases surgeons cannot avoid opening the abdominal wall to gain access to the intestine.

Holes in the intestinal wall

“If children only swallow one magnet, it is usually excreted normally. But if there are several, they clump together and get stuck in the intestines,” Thakkar says. In the worst case, they even made holes in the intestinal wall. Then complex operations are required, which require a long hospital stay and subsequent rehabilitation. “Magnets are advertised on websites and on social media. Teens who use magnets, similar to influencers on TikTok, are often brought in to hold simulated holes on their tongues and cheeks.”