Monday, 06 August 2012
We've seen the recalls: toys that have magnets which might dislodge or are just so small a child might swallow them. The risk? The magnets can attach to each other at different parts of the bowel and bore a hole through the intestinal wall separating them. It can be a deadly situation. But this is the scenario and the concept that surgeons in Salt Lake City used for inspiration on how to save a baby boy's life.
Patrick and his twin brother were born premature. He also had rectal atresia, a blockage that totally prevents bowel movements. But weighing only 4 lbs, Patrick was too small for the surgery they usually performed for this condition.
Eventually, his surgeon, Dr. Eric Scaife, connected the problem they needed to correct for Patrick and the accidental harm that came to some children after swallowing toy magnets. So they went shopping at Toys-R-Us and other toy stores to find an appropriately sized magnet that was also strong enough to do what it was supposed to. They ended up, however, ordering their magnets online.
Using x-rays, Scaife and a radiologist (the doctor who works in radiology) performed the procedure. "We just dropped the magnets in like coins into a slot, and they immediately clicked together."
It took a few days, but the magnets did their job. The intestinal membrane between them was pinched thin until the blood supply was lost and all that was left was a thin membrane. A week later, the surgeon removed the magnets. A sufficient pathway had been created without further bowel injury, and Patrick could safely have bowel movements.
He is now a healthy 3 year old.