This week doctors in Portland, Ore., removed 37 Buckyballs — small, high-powered rare earth magnets — from 3-year-old Payton Bushnell’s stomach. The magnets had clustered together and punched holes in the toddler’s stomach and intestines, but doctors say she is expected to recover fully after surgery. This is far from the first time a child has been hospitalized for swallowing magnets. Kids often come into contact with small, easy-to-swallow magnets in toys or on refrigerators. In 2006, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that in the previous three years, one child had died and 19 others had needed surgery after swallowing tiny magnets. The problem has been escalating in recent years.
Even the smallest magnets can cause serious intestinal injury. “A bunch of little magnets can end up in different places in the intestine and connect to each other across the intestinal wall,” says Stephen Teach, associate chief of emergency medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “They can then begin to erode between the walls causing damage.”
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