UAE: 91-year-old grandma saved in surgery after swallowing fish bone

Doctors urge residents to take such situations seriously: 'Sharp objects can pierce the food pipe and can migrate into areas like the chest, causing further complications,' an expert says


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Sat 27 Apr 2024, 3:16 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Apr 2024, 4:05 PM

Inez Richards, 91, likes chewing on fish heads but, a few days ago, she had to be rushed to a hospital after complaining of some irritation. It turned out a fish bone was stuck in her throat — and doctors said she needed immediate surgery.

What started as discomfort became painful the next day, making it difficult for Inez to swallow food.

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“We gave her bread and other food to push it down, as we were unaware of the fish bone’s size. It didn’t work. When we saw her pain, we rushed her to the hospital," said Sandy Saxena, daughter of Inez.

After five days of uneasiness, the family consulted doctors at Medeor Hospital, Dubai. “We were told it has to be removed surgically without delay. My mother was scared and in pain,” said Sandy.

Dr Kishore Chandra Prasad, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon, said surgey was the sole option.

“Inez’s condition was challenging as she came to the hospital five days after the incident and after they made several efforts to remove the bone. Her advanced age and various health challenges — like cervical spondylitis, an age-related disease process associated with degenerative changes within the intervertebral disc — also needed to be considered.

"We decided to surgically remove the fish bone that was stuck in the food pipe. She was exceptionally cooperative throughout the treatment,” said Dr Prasad.

The surgical team managed to treat the "perforation and neck abscess caused by the fish bone".

While Inez was in the hospital, she had to be fed through the nasal tube. But as soon as the tube was taken out, she heaved a sigh of relief.

"Now, she is perfectly fine. She sleeps and eats well,” said Sandy.

Common but risky

Although swallowing food and other objects is common among children and adults, it poses high risks, doctors said.

Dr Padmanabhan, head of the department of ENT and otolaryngology consultant at LLH Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said he sees two to three such cases a week.

Recently, there was a 14-year-old boy who came to the hospital with throat pain after eating lunch that included Sheri fish.

He felt something got stuck in his throat and began cough. He then tried removing it with his fingers and ended up causing an injury. At the hospital, the doctor saw blood in his throat during examination.

“When I examined with the endoscope, there were some blood stains at the beginning of the food pipe. Closer examination revealed the tip of the fish bone,” said Dr Padmanabhan.

Since the boy was not cooperating, the doctor had to administer anaesthesia and use the endoscope, camera, and special forceps to remove it. “When we pulled it out, it was almost 4-5cm in length. He was discharged in the evening.”

Dr Kishore urged the public to take such situations seriously.

“We may think the object will go down. But, when we swallow, the sharp edge can pierce the food pipe and can migrate into areas like the chest, causing further complications.”

How to avoid such dangers

  • Always eat mindfully, checking for bones or sharp objects.
  • The elderly should remove dentures while eating food as they may get swallowed along with food and get stuck inside.
  • Do not keep pins inside your mouth while adjusting your headscarf or dress. It may go inside and pierce the airway.
  • If something gets stuck in the throat, drink water. Don’t put your finger or swallow any food as it may go deeper.
  • Consult an ENT doctor at the earliest.
  • If children swallow button batteries from toys, immediately consult a doctor. The corrosive chemicals in the battery can destroy the lining of the food pipe.


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