Surgeon gets to grips with girl's toothbrush

By Bevan Hurley

File photo / Simon Baker
File photo / Simon Baker

The surgeon who safely removed a toothbrush from a schoolgirl's stomach feared the girl could suffer severe internal injuries during the operation.

Dinesh Lal says he was astounded when the 15-year-old girl walked into Middlemore Hospital complaining she had swallowed a 19cm toothbrush.

"She told me she was in a lot of pain. She said she had a funny churning sensation in her stomach, it was very uncomfortable for her," the gastroenterologist said.

The high school student had been brushing her teeth while running up the stairs of her South Auckland home in December 2007 when she tripped and fell, pushing it down into her mouth.

Her younger brother came to help stop her from choking but a gag reflex caused her to swallow the toothbrush whole before it could be pulled out.

An x-ray failed to show up the toothbrush but doctors were able to detect it in the girl's stomach using a camera lowered down her throat while she was under general anaesthetic.

Lal was then able to grasp the bristle end of the toothbrush using a snare and painstakingly pull it back out through her mouth.

Speaking from India, where he is doing volunteer work, Lal said the team of six medical experts took just 10 minutes to remove the brush.

He said: "There was a danger that she could have suffered internal injuries while we were removing the toothbrush, but it was successful.

"Afterwards she was fine. She was in and out in one day ... Her mother was very grateful, they were very happy after it was removed."

Lal said: "It's something that you don't see every day."

The operation was reported in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal.

- Herald on Sunday

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