A decade after her braces were taken out, a woman needed to have a piece of dental wire removed from her intestine. [Warning: The photos below are graphic.)
The 30-year-old Australian woman, who has not been named, was having cramps and abdominal pain, according to CNN. Doctors thought that the pain was caused by her gallbladder, and released her from the hospital when the pain subsided.
But two days later, she returned to the hospital saying that she was still experiencing severe pain. Doctors then did a CT scan, which revealed that her small intestine had been punctured multiple times by an object inside of her body.
"After looking at the CT scan, at first we thought it was a fish bone, because that's a pretty common thing to find in the stomach," said Dr. Talia Shepherd.
"But when we went to ask the patient if she remembered swallowing anything, she had no recollection," Shepherd said.
Doctors performed surgery to remove the object, finding a 7-centimeter piece of wire from orthodontic braces that the woman hadn't worn in 10 years.
While operating, doctors saw that the wire had pierced her small intestine in a number of different spots and had caused it to twist around on itself, developing a condition called volvulus, according to Ars Technica.
"I think it was probably just sitting there in her stomach the whole time," said Shepherd, "and then when the small bowel was punctured, that's when the pain started."
She pointed out that the case was a rare occurrence.
"The chances of swallowing a wire from your braces is very low," said Shepherd. "There might be a higher chance if you're sedated and undergo a dental procedure. But this is a very unusual case."
Gastroenterologist Dr. Pat Raymond said that it was strange that the patient didn't remember swallowing the wire.
"Usually, when people have an injury related to swallowing something, they remember accidentally swallowing it or intentionally swallowing it," she said, adding that the wire was "relatively large."
"It's incredibly common in my professions to see people who have swallowed things," said Raymond, adding that the objects swallowed would often vary depending on whether patients had swallowed them by mistake or on purpose.
"The general rule is that if it passes out of the esophagus, it's likely to pass through the rest of the intestine without incident," said gastroenterologist Dr. J. Sumner Bell.
"But if people swallow batteries, children swallow magnets, or sharp objects like razor blades or packages of cocaine, that's where we get involved to actively remove them," Bell added.