Teen Rushed to Surgery for Swallowing Rare-Earth Magnets


"On the third day, the magnet stopped moving and was in the end of the small intestine near the colon," said Mehta. "A CT scan showed it was stuck."

Swallowing one magnet is not as worrisome as two, according to Mehta. "If they separate, they are really strong and they have an attractive force."

Swallowed objects like coins and hair pins rarely necessitate a procedure.

But magnets can cause parts of the digestive tract to stick together, eroding the tissue and causing perforation and infection.

"There have definitely been cases where a loop of the intestine or stomach is caught between the two magnets," he said. "If you are unlucky, it can twist the intestine and choke off the blood supply. It's pretty crazy."

Magnets are particularly dangerous for small children, because they cannot tell a parent if or what they have swallowed and treatment can get delayed.

"They can be asymptomatic for days, and then it gets stuck and they go from asymptomatic to sick in a matter of no time," he said.

After five days in the hospital, Christin is now home and "doing well," according to her mother, who said she'd like to see these magnets banned.

Many brands of the rare-earth balls are currently available on the Internet.

Today, the two magnets retrieved from Christin's intestine, corroded and no longer shiny, sit in a bowl, a reminder of the danger.

"They are an attractive nuisance, like a swimming pool with no fence around it or leaving the keys in the car when kids are around," said Rivas. "You can't cite a kid for being a kid. That's what they do. Parents should be aware of the potential dangers."

Her daughter, an honor roll student who is active in church and sports, agrees.

"They are very dangerous unless they are used for the right things," said Christin. "I wanted to make people more aware of this before Christmas when younger children can get ahold of the stuff. There is a 60 percent morbidity. A little kid wouldn't survive."

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