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Swallowing Magnets Can Be Fatal for Children
Date:5/18/2013

SATURDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Children who swallow high-powered magnets often need surgery and other invasive procedures to remove the objects, according to a new study.

The researchers, from the Louisiana State University Health Center in New Orleans, found that more than 79 percent of children who swallowed very strong "neodymium magnets" required either surgery or an endoscopic procedure, in which a tube containing a camera is inserted into the digestive tract. Only 21 percent of these cases can be treated through observation or by pumping the stomach, they said.

These magnets may appear harmless, but they are up to 20 times stronger than typical refrigerator magnets and are powerful enough to cause significant -- even fatal -- damage to the digestive tract.

Although many ingested objects pass through a child's system without serious problems, children frequently swallow more than one neodymium magnet at a time, the researchers said. As a result, the magnets can pull together and perforate the intestinal wall.

"We seemed to be seeing more and more of these cases, some of which were very serious -- even life-threatening," Dr. Robert Adam Noel, associate professor of pediatrics at Louisiana State University Children's Hospital, said in a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association. "Our research not only confirms our concern, but also shows that early intervention is particularly important with these magnet ingestions."

In conducting the study, the researchers questioned pediatric gastroenterologists across the United States and tracked the medical and surgical procedures used to treat patients who swallowed neodymium magnets.

The study found that in 31 percent of cases, surgery alone was needed to remove the ingested magnets. In 43 percent of the surgical cases, however, a second invasive procedure was required.

"The findings send a strong message to clinicians an
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