The foreign body blog

It’s been over five years since I wrote a blog about foreign bodies. That’s remarkable enough (considering how fun* and interesting** and sometimes outright terrifying*** foreign bodies can be), but what I find really surprising is that no one has ever dedicated a blog to foreign bodies. Think of it: doctors around the world could submit photos and stories to the blog’s manager, who would after a year or two write a large format / coffee table book on foreign bodies, make oodles of money, then get his medical license revoked for violating patient confidentiality, and then lose oodles of money when he is sued by umpteen patients whose clinical photos showed up in the book (Damn you, I just know that was MY colonic can of Budweiser you included on page 135!), and then recoup all of his lost wealth and respectability when Quentin Tarantino directs a movie about his travails featuring Johnny Depp as the doctor-turned-coffee-table-book-author.

The pause that refreshes!

The pause that refreshes!

In med school, a well worn photocopy of an article from the Journal of Gastroenterology made the rounds among us budding surgeons. The article detailed a number of case histories of colonic foreign bodies, but the most memorable one concerned a gay couple who were celebrating the New York Yankees’ victory in the 1978 World Series by putting to good use a baseball signed by Catfish Hunter****. If I remember correctly, the non-incapacitated half of this couple was insistent that the baseball be removed unscathed. (Which brings to mind the apocryphal story of the ER patient with an electric vibrator located just past the reach of his fingers. The surgeon, so the story goes, asked him whether he wanted the vibrator removed, “or do you want me to change the batteries.”)

Most foreign body stories are not as much fun as these, particularly at my end of the body. It’s hard to laugh at a toddler’s misfortune, after all. And betting on the date of a swallowed penny has limited entertainment value.

Not many blogs on foreign body extraction, I’m afraid. Here’s one from rural Nepal, and here’s another from a blog oddly entitled, “Dr Ko Ko Gyi’s Blog /
Autobiography of Dr Abdul Rahman Zafrudin.” Dr. Gyi/Zafrudin has a number of disturbing images on that site, but here’s the money quote:

Rectal foreign bodies are typically inserted and the majority of cases are the result of erotic activity. Typically found objects are vibrators, dildoes, light bulbs, candles, shot glasses, and bottles. Patients may be very embarrassed to disclose the circumstances regarding the foreign body insertion and there may have been multiple attempts at removal. The image shown demonstrates a vibrator in the rectum along with a pair of salad tongs that became lodged after attempts at self-removal.

He also includes a nasal foreign body story from House, and it’s anyone’s guess why he included a fictional story amongst a number of true ones.

The author of the Sermo Blog solicited “most interesting foreign body” stories from a number of physicians. My favorite quote:

Response from a Urologist: “At our hospital recently the general surgeons removed from the stomach a bound and gagged barbie doll that the patient had swallowed.”

All this talk of rectal foreign bodies has made me hungry. Time to make dinner.


* My favorite: beads. The trick is to hook the hole. Close runner-up: any nasal foreign body that can be extracted by tricking the patient into sneezing it out (I have my ways!)

** Most interesting: the piedrito, which I blogged back in 2005.

*** Most terrifying: half of a pigeon skull wedged between the vocal cords of a two-year-old. Terrifying because this easily could have turned into a lethal situation.

**** Details made up by yours truly. Except I’m pretty sure the cause of celebration was, indeed, the Yankees’ victory.


  1. Dean says:

    Years ago I knew a couple. She was this sweet little innocent thing, a United Church raised girl, and she trained as a nurse. I think she wound up working in pediatrics, but she had to do a stint in emergency in St. Paul’s in Vancouver. We were out at dinner somewhere and the RFB topic came up. Her eyes got big and she said the weirdest thing she’d helped remove was one of those orange hockey balls.

  2. Walnut says:

    You mean a puck? It always amazes me, these foreign bodies (like baseballs, beer cans) that have no narrow ends to get it all started. A person must have a most sophisticated anus to accommodate something like that.

  3. I remember reading about an elderly WW2 vet in the UK who used to, uh, massage his piles with a souvenir from his military days – a 35mm anti-aircraft shell. Yes, he got it stuck. And yes, it was a live, unfired high-explosive round.

    Talk about pucker factor…

  4. Oh, and Sophisticated Anus is *so* going to be the name of my next band.

  5. Walnut says:

    . . . and they’ll play outHouse music?

    nyuck nyuck nyuck