Rare-Earth Magnets Swallowed Lead to Emergency Surgery for Girl, 14

Image: Rare-Earth Magnets Swallowed Lead to Emergency Surgery for Girl, 14

Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 04:04 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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A 14-year-old girl who swallowed six powerful rare-earth magnets was rushed to surgery, and luckily doctors were able to remove the magnets before they damaged her intestines.

Christin Rivas was using the tiny, powerful magnets to perform tricks for her friends — they’re strong enough to be held underneath a table and move a pen across the top.

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But when she went to the bathroom, she didn’t want to put the them on the floor, so she popped the rare-earth magnets in her mouth, Rivas told ABC News. When someone made her laugh, she swallowed them.

The Orlando Sentinel said Rivas lost part of her colon due to the magnets, which are considered extremely dangerous and result in multiple surgeries every year when they’re swallowed by children.

“Kids swallow a lot of objects," Dr. Tejas Mehta, Rivas’ pediatric gastroenterologist, told the Sentinel, “but from a GI perspective, magnets cause more damage than anything else."

An ABC “Good Morning America” report that explored the dangers of magnets explained that the problem is multiplied when several magnets are swallowed at once. They will cling to each other even through gastrointestinal walls, for instance, which damages the wall and can cause leakage.

Swallowing multiple magnets often results in an invasive procedure, the Sentinel reported, with four out of five kids needing surgery. From 2002 to 2011, 22,500 magnet injuries were reported, the newspaper said, most of which are swallowed but 25 percent are put up the nose.

One challenge, the Sentinel said, is that sometimes ER personnel don’t know how dangerous magnets can be. When Rivas’s mother took her to the first ER, they told her to go home and wait until the magnets passed. But a Google search showed the possible problems with that idea, and Rivas and her mother went to a second ER.

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