A 41-year-old woman is finally free of chronic pain after six years of unsuccessful treatment.
It wasn’t a new drug or experimental surgery that helped her—it was a bizarre discovery doctors made while performing surgery on her abdomen.
The woman, who hasn’t been identified, suffered abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, and, at times, blocked intestines.
Doctors thought she had Crohn’s disease—chronic intestinal inflammation—but no treatment worked on her.
Finally, after her small intestine got severely blocked, doctors at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, in the UK, decided it was time for a surgery.
After removing the inflamed part of the intestine, the doctors found the culprit.
At the very end of the small intestine, they clearly recognized “two pieces of plastic bearing the word ‘Heinz,’” the doctors wrote in a case report in The BMJ medical journal.
It was a ketchup packet.
The woman somehow had eaten the plastic wrapper and had lived with it lodged in her abdomen for six years.
In over 80 percent of cases, people pass whatever weird things they swallow, the doctors noted. Up to 20 percent of cases require an endoscopy and only about 1 percent require surgery.
In this case, the wrapper’s sharp edges had cut through the patient’s bowel and had gotten lodged in, causing the inflammation.
The doctors said this was the first time a plastic wrapper lodged in the intestines had caused symptoms of Crohn’s disease. They noted their colleagues can take a lesson from the case, as standard tests don’t always uncover the real cause of a health problem.
They suggested that “clinicians need to be open-minded and treat the patient rather than tests.”
The woman subsequently went through an “uneventful” recovery and the problems she’d had for over half a decade disappeared.