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Jun05
Acid injury of the food pipe
Consumption of bathroom cleaning acid is one of the most common methods of attempting suicide especially in young girls and most often this does not kill but leaves the patient in a very miserable state of affairs impairing their ability to swallow and subjecting them to multiple hospital visits, endoscopic treatment and quite often surgery. And not all of them will be cured by any of the medical and surgical measures.

Being easily available and cheap , bathroom cleaning acids are one of the commonest sources ingested for suicidal purposes. Accidental ingestion by toddlers and children is not uncommon.

These victims present with severe chest and abdominal pain, vomiting and burning sensation in the mouth which usually settles down in 2 - 3 days. They will then be able to swallow liquids and later solids. The real effect of acid injury to the food pipe will show after about 40-50 days after the incident when swallowing of liquids will also not be possible needing hospitalisation and treatment

The sordid saga will start from then on. Barium x-rays, endoscopic dilatation and often major abdominal surgery will be required to enable the patient to swallow. The involvement of mouth, voice box and upper food pipe makes surgery very difficult with poor outcomes. At times we resort ot silencing the voice box with a permanent tracheostomy to enable eating.

There will be huge drain on the family both emotionally and financially and the worst bit is that no one will have any sympathy to the patient.

Corrosive acid ingestion will not kill a person but will cause considerable damage. One has to be very careful with bathroom acids. these shouldnt be left in the bathroom within the reach of children.

Dr.Patta Radhakrishna MS MCh (GI Surgery)
Senior consultant Surgical Gastroenterologist
Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.


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