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International Journal of Surgery Case Reports

This is what happens when you swallow a cell phone

A prisoner in Dublin swallowed a cell phone. Let this story about how it got removed be a warning about not swallowing consumer electronics.


John-Michael Bond


Posted on May 17, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 6:32 pm CDT

There are some questions to you don’t know you need answering until they’re asked. Questions like: what would happen if you swallowed your cell phone? Thanks to a 29-year-old male prisoner in Dublin, Ireland, we now get to know the answer, and it’s not good.

First off let’s start by stating the obvious; please don’t swallow your cell phone. Even if you’re working with a nice small flip phone model, nothing positive comes from eating consumer electronics. But should you find yourself in a situation where your phone makes its way to your stomach, here’s what will probably happen.

The case, reported by the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, describes a 29-year-old prisoner who was admitted to the hospital ten hours after he claimed to have swallowed a mobile phone and was vomiting. A clinical examination was conducted, which the doctors referred to as “unremarkable” despite the fact that there was a phone in the man’s stomach. Irish doctors have apparently seen it all, but they decided to admit the patient and just wait for the phone to make its grand exit on its own. 

Sadly, repeated abdominal radiographs confirmed the phone was stuck in the man’s stomach instead of progressing along the gastrointestinal tract where it could exit “normally.” The least invasive option available would be to insert an instrument into the esophagus to grab the phone and pull it out through his throat. However, because of the way the phone was positioned in the man’s stomach this option wasn’t possible without damaging the esophagus. Surgery was needed to remove the phone.

Doctors made incisions in the abdominal wall, and removed the phone with forceps through an anterior gastrostomy. After a few days of observation the man was released from the hospital and back into police custody. 

The moral of the story? Don’t swallow a cell phone or you’ll probably get cut open to remove it. However there is one humorous silver lining to this tale of cellular adventure, the conclusion to the doctor’s case report.

The International Journal of Surgery Case Reports exists to help doctors learn from situations like this. The doctor’s resulting conclusions are as follows:

An ingested mobile phone in the stomach may not be amenable for removal using the current endoscopic retrieval devices. Improvements in overtubes or additional modifications of existing retrieval devices to ensure adequate alignment for removal without injuring the oesophagus are needed.

The doctors looked at that situation and said “You know what? We need to do better. More people are probably going to swallow cell phones, so how can we make existing retrieval devices safer for removing cell phones without surgery?”

While we appreciate the thought, doctor, maybe the phone swallowers are the ones who need to rethink things a bit. Still it’s nice to know that even if we do swallow a phone, modern medicine will be there to save our lives.

H/T Gizmodo 

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*First Published: May 17, 2016, 4:19 pm CDT