A British man who had a minor procedure was back in the hospital about a week later, thanks to something he swallowed during the surgery. The incident cited in the BMJ Case Reports journal says that the 72-year-old retired electrician had a benign lump in his abdomen taken out, but six days later he returned to the ER to complain he was having swallowing problems and coughing up blood. Doctors treated him for aspiration pneumonia, gave him some meds, and sent him back home. Two days later, though, he was back, the pain in his throat so bad he couldn't even take the medication he'd been prescribed. He also complained of feeling short of breath when lying down. A series of X-rays finally revealed the problem: a "metallic roof plate and three front teeth" stuck in his larynx.
He'd swallowed his dentures during his procedure a week earlier. Although the report doesn't detail how exactly this happened, NBC News notes six or so similar cases of patients swallowing their own dentures while under anesthesia. Other items that can lead to similar issues include retainers, tongue piercings, and a patient's real teeth, if any of them are loose, per Driscoll Children's Hospital anesthesiologist Mary Dale Peterson, who says she'll even pull a child's tooth before surgery if it's dangling. The dentures were removed from the UK patient and he did recover, but not before several bouts of bleeding that required additional surgery. The researchers note the "presence of any dental prosthetics should be clearly documented before and after any procedure," and that "high-risk foreign bodies in the upper aerodigestive tract ... should be closely monitored for complications." (Read more surgery stories.)