Big Gulp: Man Swallows Cellphone, Needs Surgery

A photo of a man eating a cellphone
(Image credit: Family Business | Shutterstock)

A man in Ireland swallowed an entire cellphone that became lodged in his stomach and was tricky to remove, according to a new report of the case.

The 29-year-old man was a prisoner who was brought to the emergency room after he claimed to have swallowed a cellphone earlier that day. X-rays showed the cellphone was in the man's stomach.

Doctors waited 18 hours to see if the phone would move down, through the rest of his digestive system, but it remained in the same spot.

The medical team tried to remove the phone by pulling it up through his esophagus, so that the man wouldn't need surgery. This procedure, called a gastrointestinal endoscopy, is a common technique for removing foreign objects that have been swallowed and don't pass through the digestive system. It involves using a flexible tube with a camera to see inside the stomach. [16 Oddest Medical Cases]

But although the doctors tried to take the phone out using several medical tools, including forceps and snare-like devices, they couldn't align the phone correctly to get it out of the stomach without potentially damaging the esophagus, the report said.

The doctors ended up needing to make a surgical incision into the stomach, called a laparotomy, to get the phone out. This type of surgery is required in less than 1 percent of people who ingest a foreign object, the report said.

This case shows that "an ingested mobile phone in the stomach may not be amenable for safe removal using the current endoscopic retrieval devices," the doctors wrote in their report, which was published online April 1 in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports. What's more, there is a need "to create or improve on existing retrieval devices," so that a device like a cellphone could be properly aligned and removed from the stomach without surgery, they said.

The man was released from the hospital after a week, and he had no symptoms when doctors checked up on him four months later.

This appears to be the first reported case of an adult swallowing a cellphone that ended up in the stomach, the report said. In 2014, doctors in Delaware reported the case of a 35-year-old man who swallowed a cellphone while intoxicated, which became stuck in his throat.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.