That's why it's best to remove fake teeth before surgery: You can just swallow them.
A medical journal reports the case of a 72-year-old British man whose partial dentures had apparently been stabbed in his throat during surgery and had not been discovered for eight days.
The man went to the emergency room because he had difficulty swallowing and coughing blood. Doctors ordered a chest X-ray, diagnosed him with pneumonia and sent him home with antibiotics and steroids.
It took another hospital visit before another X-ray revealed the problem: his prosthesis ̵
The man believed that his dentures had been lost while he was in hospital for minor surgery.
How it happened is not entirely clear, but half a dozen previous cases have been documented when dentures are misled as surgical patients are asleep.
Putting a test tube on a patient's airways can push things where they don't "belong," said Dr. Mary Dale Peterson, an anesthesiologist at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas.
In addition to dentures, retainers, loose teeth and tongue piercing can cause problems, said Peterson, who was elected president. American Society of Anesthesiologists. Before the operation of the child, she will extract a very loose tooth and tell the patient to expect a visit from the tooth fairy. "We can make a good play."
In the British case, after the removal of the prosthesis, the man has several bouts of bleeding that require more surgery before recovering. The magazine article does not identify the man or the hospital in question.
What can be learned from this case? Doctors should listen carefully to their patients and build a timeline of what happened, not rely heavily on scans and tests, said Dr. Rui Amaral Mendes, associate editor of BMJ Case Reports, which publishes the paper Monday.
Part of that is, patients have to tell their doctors about mouth problems before surgery, said Mendes, an oral surgeon at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. This includes dentures, blisters and serious gum disease. Loose teeth can be broken into the throat when the tubes are placed in the airways.
"Stay on the safe side," he said. "Tell your doctor what's going on in your mouth."
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