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Doctors Discover 72-Year-Old Man’s Missing Dentures Lodged In His Throat A Full Eight Days After Surgery

A British septuagenarian was reunited with what he thought were his missing dentures.

In a biting twist, he discovered the false teeth were always with him.

The 72-year-old retired electrician complained about excruciating pain in his throat with symptoms of blood and difficulty swallowing prescribed medication several days after undergoing surgery to remove a benign abdominal wall lump.

After ordering a chest x-ray, doctors determined the patient had aspiration pneumonia and discharged him with prescriptions for antibiotics and steroids, according to a report in the British Medical Journal.

But the agonizing pain continued. When the gentleman returned to the hospital, another X-ray revealed a startling discovery.

His partial dentures—a metallic roof plate and three front teeth—were lodged in his larynx.

The unidentified patient assumed the prosthetic device had fallen out of his mouth during his stomach surgery from eight days before.

The exact cause has not been confirmed, but there have been previous cases of missing dentures while patients have undergone anesthesia.

Dr. Mary Dale Peterson, an anesthesiologist at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, told the Huffington Post that loose objects, including dentures, retainers and tongue piercings can get caught by the insertion of a breathing tube.

Many on Twitter were perplexed as to how something like this slipped under the radar.

An ENT surgeon successfully extracted the dentures through a laryngoscope and Tilley’s forceps, but the patient endured severe bleeding during the next six months before making a full recovery.

The BMJ reported what doctors saw through the flexible nasendoscopy examination:

“The object was pressed against the epiglottis and had caused erythema and swelling with evidence of erosion that was likely the cause of the haemoptysis.”

In BMJ‘s “Learning from Errors” case report, one of the takeaways include:

“Presence of any dental prosthetics should be clearly documented before and after any procedure, and all members of the theatre team should be aware of the perioperative plan for them.”

And:

“Listen to the story the patient is telling you and do not be distracted by positive findings on investigations.”

Fortunately, the patient survived the near-fatal negligence, but the case is a good reminder that all patients should inform their surgeons about details like having dentures – or even loose teeth – before undergoing surgery.

The book Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them is available here.

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Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1 Flickr: nyckmoe