Toddler recovers after swallowing ballpoint pen

A two-year-old girl fully recovered in Montreal after swallowing a ballpoint pen almost 15 centimetres long, according to a report in a scientific journal.
X-rays of a two-year-old girl show the faint traces of a 15-centimetre-long pen she swallowed (highlighted in red) that lodged in her esophagus and upper stomach. (Courtesy Ear, Nose & Throat Journal)

A two-year-old girl fully recovered in Montreal after swallowing a ballpoint pen almost 15 centimetres long, according to a report in the scientific journal Ear, Nose and Throat.

Doctors at the Montreal Children's Hospital were able to remove the pen using a rigid esophagoscope, a slim tube with a camera on the end.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the longest nonflexible foreign body ingested by a young child ever reported in the English-language literature," the doctors say in their report.

The girl had accidentally swallowed a full-length, cap-less pen. According to the report, she spit out a small amount of blood but showed no other symptoms.

She was first taken to a regional hospital, where a chest X-ray showed that the pen was lodged vertically in her lower esophagus and had partly entered her stomach.

She was then transferred to the Montreal Children's Hospital, arriving four hours after swallowing the pen, the report says.

After the pen was removed, the girl recovered quickly and was sent home the next day, doctors Anaïs Rameau, Sumeet M. Anand and Lily Nguyen report.

"Pre-school toddlers are especially prone to ingesting inanimate objects," they write.

They give four reasons:

  • They apprehend their environment by oral examination.
  • They yearn to stimulate their gums during teething.
  • They become increasingly mobile, which gives them access to new objects.
  • They lack the judgment to appraise risk and to distinguish food from non-food items.

The doctors say they wrote the report, published online in the journal's July issue, to alert parents and consumer-products regulators to the risks of children handling small objects.