When a flip-top head would come in handy

By Peter Griffin 01/09/2010

There were lots of articles published in the New Zealand Medical Journal last week that were worthy of mainstream media coverage.

Chronic funding shortages for cochlear implants, the red tape involved in doing clinical research in New Zealand, sleep apnoea in Wellington taxi drivers. In the letters section, we had the raging debate  over Linda Bryder’s History of the the ‘Unfortunate Experiment’ at National Women’s Hospital.

But what was it that caught the attention of at least half a dozen media outlets and received the infographic treatment from the Herald on Sunday (see below)? It was the letter Inadvertent swallowing of a toothbrush.

The letter tells the story of a 15 year old girl who was running up some steps with a toothbrush in her mouth when she fell over pushing the toothbrush down her throat. Her brother came to her aid and attempted to pull the toothbrush out of her throat, but the gag reflex sucked it down her oesophagus.

The HoS helpfully illustrates the medical snare technique that was successfully used to retrieve the toothbrush with no harm to the girl.


The correspondent, Dinesh Lal, Gastroenterologist and Consultant Physician at the Department of Gastroenterology, Middlemore Hospital, Otahuhu, Auckland, concluded:

“In summary, walking or running around with a toothbrush in the mouth is potentially dangerous.”

And the offending toothbrush, measured…


Maybe if the poor 15 year-old had one of those flip-top heads from the old Reach commercials her bro would have been able to get both hands down her throat and removed the thing before it went south…

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