Surgeons at Yuxi City People's Hospital in the Yunnan Province of southern China have successfully removed a 4-inch blade from the head of a man who claims he was stabbed four years ago, according to an Associated Press report.
Although the 30-year-old man, identified as Li Fuyan, said he suffered from severe headaches, bad breath and breathing difficulties since he was stabbed in the lower jaw during a robbery, he claims not to have known the blade broke off and stayed there when he was stabbed.
Dr. Eugene Flamm, head of neurological surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, said it's surprising, but conceivable, that a 4-inch blade went unnoticed for so long.
"Certainly in this country he would have been scanned or X-rayed before four years passed," Flamm said. "How it happened? I don't know. But could it happen, yes."
X-ray images show the knife resting behind the man's throat.
"The man was very fortunate that it missed all the big vessels and structures," Flamm said. Apparently, the blade missed the carotid artery, which delivers blood to the brain, as well as the windpipe and esophagus.
"Just like when we do surgery, we go through tissue plains for safe passage, Flamm said. "There are spaces."
Surgeons carefully removed the blade, which appeared rusty and corroded in images, without shattering it, according to the AP report. Flamm said the rust would not be a long-term concern.
"It didn't do anything. They took it out, and that's the end of it," he said.
The incident serves as a reminder that people can and do survive head trauma with little or no disability.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is currently in rehab following a Jan. 8 gunshot wound to the head, continues to make what doctors have called a "miraculous" recovery.
"It's like with any of these injuries: a millimeter one way or another with a bullet or a knife makes a tremendous difference," Flamm said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.